REACH Edmonton

The Sexual Exploitation Working Group hosted a public event, April 25, in conjunction with Edmonton's annual Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness.

The event featured a panel presentation, moderated by Gianmarco Visconti, on Internet and Technology Safety for Children and Youth. Panelists included Crown Prosecutor Craig Kreiger (Department of Justice, Government of Alberta), Staff Sergeant Stephen Camp (ALERT - Internet Child Exploitation Unit), Nikki Bernier (Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton) and Ryan Myers (Red Cross).

"Public events such as this give us the opportunity to educate Edmontonians about sexual exploitation, its causes and impacts on our community," said Kathleen Quinn, chair of the Sexual Exploitation Working Group. 

The presentation covered the dark web or the shadow-side of the Internet, online predators, non-consensual photo sharing, as well as positive strategies to prevent online exploitation.

Today, the average age of children receiving a cellphone is Grade 4. This access to technology is playing an integral role in relationship development and social interaction and connectivity.

Ryan Myers thinks that there is more that we can do to increase resiliency among youth. 

"I think through education, what we can do, and this is easier said than done, is try to build self-awareness among youth," said Myers. "Have a conversation around gender identity, gender stereotypes, culture, values, aspirations, fear, personal boundaries. We know that the more aware someone is of their self, the more likely they are to overcome conflict."

Myers offered other important suggestions to help build youth resiliency, including: learning about substance abuse, building critical thinking skills, creating safe spaces in schools, building capacity among teachers to understand and recognize signs of dating violence, and building leadership among youth to help build an engaging, social community.

The final event of the week of awareness was held on April 27 - a panel presentation on Exploring Healthy Masculinity and Preventing Sexual Exploitation. Participants were engaged in a conversation that supported a cultural shift in thinking from one that enables sexual exploitation to one that supports accountability and healthy relationships.

Panelists included Justin Otteson (Men Edmonton), German Villegas, Derek Warwick (Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton), Corey Wyness (Below the Belt: Men's Group) and Linh Lu (Pride Centre).