THE FOSTER-CARE CONNECTION
The link with foster care is difficult to ignore – in fact, it’s “a direct connection” says Dawn Lavell-Harvard of NWAC.
“The fact that we have more kids in the care system now than at the height of the residential-school system shows just how many of our young people are at risk.” Nearly half – 48 per cent – of kids under 14 in foster care in Canada are aboriginal children.
Bridget Perrier was 12 and living in a group home in Thunder Bay, Ont., when another girl convinced her to run away – into the “nightmare.”
Bridget Perrier ran away at 12, and says she nearly wound up among the missing and murdered: ‘I’ve had many close calls … they would pulverize us.’ (May Truong for The Globe and Mail)
More than 25 years later, she vividly recalls turning her first trick: paid to masturbate an old man who so preferred young girls that he’d pay an extra $400 “for the newbie experience.” It was January; she was cold, broke and alone, with few options.
Before long, a madam put her to work, arranging stints in Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto. By 14, she’d met a “kiddy pimp,” been recruited and was still travelling from city to city.
All the girls she worked with, she says, had a history of sexual abuse, and neglect. Many were in care – “kids that no one wanted” – and many, like her, were indigenous.
The pimp, she recalls, “was every underage girl’s worst nightmare … this guy specifically liked young girls, because he could overpower and manipulate them.”
At times, he would come across like a boyfriend, but then would withhold affection – from someone who had nowhere else to find it. “He knew exactly what types of girls to pick,” she says.
There were threats, such as sending explicit videotapes to a girl’s parents. Or he would “flip out,” she says, and resort to beatings, in some instances, using a “pimp stick” – a coat hanger, unraveled and heated.
Several friends in her circle back then have been killed, and she says she was nearly one of the missing and murdered because of bad dates. “I’ve had many close calls … they would pulverize us.”
She was once among a group of girls (some of them intoxicated and just taken from a Thunder Bay bar) who spent several days servicing the crew aboard a freighter on Lake Superior. Not only was one man, nicknamed Captain Jack, “rough,” she says, the girls were warned that anyone who acted out would be thrown over the side.
There was a time when she would have described herself as being in the trade by choice. But on reflection, she now feels there was no choice. In part because she was recruited so young, “it was never work,” she says, vehemently. “It was abuse.”
Published on February 10, 2016