Summer Social Media Educational Series – July 15th – July 22nd

Continuing our series – here are the social media posts from July 15th to 22nd.


July 15th – Victims of Sexual Exploitation

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks defining child sex abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking in an effort to provide basic information on these horrific crimes.
Today we are going to begin discussing victim profiles. It is important to know that everyone can be at risk. It does not matter the gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or socio – economic class.
That said there are some things that make a person more vulnerable and over the coming days we will discuss those.

July 16th – Victims of Child Sex Abuse
Yesterday we noted that victims child sex abuse, commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking really can be anyone but that there are some things that can make someone more vulnerable. 
Let’s take a look at some things that could make a child at higher risk of being sexually abused.- Children living with just one biological parent
– When a child is exposed to frequent conflict between parents – Children whose parents emotionally/physically abusive
– A child whose parents are not ‘present’ – they don’t spend time with the child
– Children who have stepfathers
– A child whose parents/guardians do not teach them about their bodies or have age appropriate conversations about sex
The BEST protection is of course to develop and maintain a good relationship with your child, spend time with them and take child sex abuse prevention training.

July 17th – Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation
Today we continue our discussion on victims with a focus on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
Children and youth who have a history of child sex abuse are at increased risk of being commercially exploited. There are other risk factors and these include:
-Homeless youth
-Youth in care
-Neglect and maltreatment
-Family disfunction
-Societal sexualization of children
-lack of knowledge
That is one of the many reasons why we would like to see more focus on child sex abuse prevention. Imagine the impact we could have if we educated all adults so they could be proactive – and help educate their own children!
July 18th – Victims of Sex Trafficking

There are so many things that can make a person vulnerable to being trafficked. When you think about it EVERYONE has a vulnerability and traffickers prey on these.
Along with the risk factors we have discussed over the past couple of days, we add the following:
– Gender Inequality. While we do know that males are sex trafficked, females are more at risk.
– Low self – esteem. Those seeking externalvalidation, particularly young girls.
– A need for attention/love. Often victims fall prey to the attention a trafficker lavishes on them at the beginning.
– Gang involvement – entering a gang as a girlfriend of a gang member, and then being sold within or outside the gang for sexual acts. Youth who are born into gang-involved families are expected to contribute to the family business in any way the gang deems fit.
– Addictions-Some traffickers purposely supply drugs to vulnerable people to break down their resistance and coerce them into forced labour or sex.
– Racism and the Legacy of Colonialism – these contribute to the marginalization of people, particularly indigenous populations. They face systemic barriers such as limited access to education, employment, housing, and credit and this discrimination places them at a higher risk of being trafficked.

July 19th -Identifying Victims of Child Sex Abuse – Physical Indicators
We will spend the next few days discussing how to identify possible victims of child sex abuse and sex trafficking.
Today’s post begins our posts on child sex abuse victims.
Signs that a child is being sexually abused are often behavioural rather than physical.In fact physical signs are rare. Over the next couple of days we will discuss signs for both children and adolescents.
If there are physical signs – these will include the following:
– In young children – wetting and soiling accidents that are unrelated to toilet training
– In all ages – discoloration, pain, bleeding, discharges in genitals, anus or mouth
– Sexually transmitted diseases
July 20th – Identifying Victims of Child Sex Abuse – Behavioural Indicators
Continuing on our posts on how to identify potential victims of child sex abuse with today’s focus on behavioral signs in children and adolescents. As we mentioned yesterday, you are more likely to witness behavioral than physical signs. Please keep in mind that some of these signs can be seen in times of stress such as divorce, death in family or other traumatic events in a child’s life. If a number of these signs are present then it is possible that a child is being sexually abused – begin asking questions and seek help.
-Talks about a new older friend
-Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge
–Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
-Seems distracted or distant at odd times
-Has a sudden change in eating habits
-Refuses to eat
-Loses or drastically increases appetite
– Has trouble swallowing.
-Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal
-Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
-Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
-Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
-Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
-Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
-Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad
(adapted from Stop it Now)
July 21 – Identifying Victims of Child Sex Abuse –  Young Children

Yesterday we posted about some of the behavioural signs that might indicate a child is being sexually abused. Today we are focusing on additional signs that would apply to young children.

-New words for body parts – if you have taught them proper names, they may start using new names
-An older child regressing back to bed-wetting or thumb sucking
-A child who has been toilet trained who is havingmore frequent accidents
-Asking other children to play sexual games or to behave in a sexual manner
-Resists removing clothes at appropriate times (bath, bed, diapering, toileting)
– mimicking adult-like sexual behaviours with stuffed animals or toys
-Approaching adults in a sexualized manner

Once again we remind you that any one of these could also be caused by other stresses in the family (such as a new baby). If a number of these signs (and others discussed yesterday) are present then it is possible that a child is being sexually abused – begin asking questions and seek help.

July 22nd – Identifying Victims of Child Sex Abuse – Adolescents or Older Children
Continuing our discussion on possible signs of child sex abuse with today’s post focused on older children or adolescents. Along with some of the behavioural signs we mentioned in our post of July 20th, there are additional ones to look for in older children. These include:
-Self-injury (cutting, burning)
-Inadequate personal hygiene
-Drug and alcohol abuse
-Sexual promiscuity
-Running away from home
-Depression, anxiety
-Suicide attempts
-Fear of intimacy or closeness
-Compulsive eating or dieting
In addition – we think it’s important to note that for all children – sometimes what has been labeled as ADHD in a child is actually post traumatic stress disorder.

Summer Social Media Educational Series July 8th – July 14th

Voice Found’s ultimate goal is to see an end to child sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. In order to achieve this goal we know that education is a key factor and so over the summer we will be using our social media to dispel myths and provide information on these crimes. While you may be knowledgeable about this issue it is our hope you will share this information with others who may not.
This post contains our postings from July 8th to the 16th. Missed the earlier ones? You can find them here.

July 8th – Pedophiles vs Situational Offenders

Many continue to think that all who sexually abuse children are pedophiles and we think it is important to correct this inaccuracy. Why? Because it tends to make it difficult to understand how someone who is not a pedophile but who is well liked and respected in the community can also abuse a child.

Today we are focusing our post on pedophiles. Pedophiles are adults who have a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children. They may have a preference to a specific sex or be attracted to both males and females. Pedophiles do not become sexual offenders until they act on their urges by abusing children or viewing child pornography. Some pedophiles never sexually abuse children at all.

Where pedophiles are attracted to prepubescent children, hebephiles are attracted to children who are in the midst of puberty ( age 11 to 15) and Ephebophilia is an attraction to late puberty (ages 15-19)

July 9th – Situational Offenders

It’s important to learn that not all who sexually abuse children are pedophiles. Many who abuse children are what are known as ‘situational’ offenders. When we learn about who perpetrates these crimes against children it helps us to better protect them. Perpetrators really can be anyone – family members, teachers, coaches, clergy, neighbours – male and female.
There are 4 types of situational offenders:
‘Repressed’ – This person abuses as a response to stress. They could be struggling with illness, job loss, divorce or life issue causing feelings of stress or depression
‘Morally Indiscriminate’ -This type of perpetrator targets those who are weaker and vulnerable and they may sexually abuse other adults as well. This is not as much about sex as it is about control and desecration of another human.
‘Sexually Indiscriminate’ – They seek a variety of sexual experiences and may have an addiction to sex and be involved in other illegal sexual behaviours. (ie bestiality)
‘Inadequate’ – This type of offender suffers from low self esteem, may struggle to form relationships with peers and is often considered a social outcast due to physical differences or barriers in communication.
Children are an easy target – easier to coerce, manipulate, control and silence.

July 10th – Youth can be Offenders

It is not just adults who sexually abuse children. Youth abuse children and other youth as well. As most cases of sexual abuse go unreported, it is difficult to get accurate data, however, estimates are that between 15% and 33% of all sex offences in Canada are committed by persons under 21 years of age.

July 11 – Child Sex Abuse by Family Members
So very often child sex abuse goes unreported. When family members are involved often the reaction to abuse is to ‘sweep it under the rug’. Reasons for this are complex but can include fear of being unsupported (‘this person is an upstanding member of the community and everyone will turn against me”), being financially dependent on the abuser,self-doubt (‘what if I am wrong?”).
Family members DO abuse children and no matter our discomfort we must always to the right thing and report abuse. Children who are supported and get help will heal faster. To protect the offender is to sentence a child to a lifetime of shame and self-blame and often serious consequences. They deserve better!30-40% of sexual assault victims are abused by a family member.
Non-parental relatives – 35%
Friends and Peers – 15%
Stepfathers – 13%
Biological Fathers – 9%
Other Acquaintances – 9%
Boyfriend/Girlfriend of Biological Parent – 5%
Biological Mother – 5%
*Canadian Incidence Study (CIS) of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect
 July 12th – Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
It’s hard to believe that anyone could sexually abuse a child and yet it happens far too frequently. Estimates are that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be abused before their 18th birthday.
Children are also commercially sexually exploited – in other words they are trafficked. Over the next couple of days we will discuss types of CSEC. Today we start with a definition.
In 1996, The World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children defined CSEC as:
‘sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object.’
July 13th – Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Today we are expanding our discussion on commercial sexual exploitation of children. It is important to note that there does not need to be an exchange of money in order for CSEC to occur. A child (defined as under the age of 18) who is exploited in exchange for protection, a place to sleep, food, access to higher grades or a promotion at work is being commercially sexually exploited. These ‘in-kind’ transactions are sadly very common and it is important to know that this is CSEC and these transactions do NOT entail consent.
July 14th – Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Today we continue our discussion on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. CSEC consists of a number of offences. One of those is the commonly misused term – ‘Child Prostitution’. Children are not ‘sex workers’ nor are they ‘prostitutes’. They are being prostituted – forced by other people and by circumstances into commercial sex. Demand by adults for children as sexual objects is what creates ‘child prostitution’.
Other forms of CSEC include pornography, child sex tourism, child marriages and forced marriages.
Always remember that no matter the terminology used, children can not consent to these activities and endure significant physical and psychological harm.

Summer Social Media Educational Series – July 1st to 7th

Voice Found’s ultimate goal is to see an end to child sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. In order to achieve this goal we know that education is a key factor and so over the summer we will be using our social media to dispel myths and provide information on these crimes. While you may be knowledgeable about this issue it is our hope you will share this information with others who may not.

July 1st – Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking is a crime that involves the exploitation of an individual for profit. The crime occurs when traffickers use human beings to provide labour or services, often sexual, by gaining full control of their movements and selling them as commodities. Although we may often think this is the type of crime to happen in foreign places, human trafficking is happening in Canada in both urban and rural settings.



July 2nd – Domestic Trafficking

All processes in domestic trafficking occur in one country without crossing international boarders. It does not matter if the person being exploited is a citizen, refugee, immigrant or international student. 93% of Canada’s trafficking victims come from Canada*…..they are not moved across an international boarder.

*RCMP human trafficking national coordination centre. Statistics, human trafficking in Canada, March 2014.


July 3rd – International Trafficking

International trafficking involves crossing at least one international border during the process of exploitation. The person is first exploited in the ‘source’ country and then transported to the ‘destination’ country. Whether they are crossing the border legally or illegally, it is the crossing of the international border that defines their case as international trafficking.




July 4th – Child Sex Abuse

Child sex abuse is essentially the act of sexual power one person inflicts onto a minor, or the act of sexual power/control between two minors. There are many forms of child sex abuse and it does not necessarily mean the act of sexual intercourse or even physical contact. Sex abuse can occur in the language someone uses, the way someone touches, the pictures someone sends or what they are exposing to a child. It can occur in person or online and it can be between an adult and a child or between a child and another child.

July 5th – Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

We hope today’s post will help you to understand the term ‘commercial sexual exploitation of children’ (CSEC).
CSEC occurs when individuals buy, trade or sell sexual acts with a child. This includes both contact and non-contact activities. CSEC also includes the recruitment, transporting, harbouring, obtaining or provisioning of a child for the purposes of a sexual act.
It is sex trafficking of children.


July 6th – Non-Contact Child Sex Abuse

Child sex abuse is both contact and non-contact. Today’s post is focused on non-contact abuse which is often a precursor to contact abuse.

Non-contact abuse includes the following:
-Being forced or invited to watch sex acts
-Exposure to sexually explicit material such as videos, photos, magazines. It can be both in person or via internet. 
-Listening to sex talk, comments of a sexual nature, obscene phone calls
-Sexually intrusive questions or comments whether in person, over phone or internet
-Deliberately exposing genitals to a child
-Inappropriately watching a child go to the bathroom or undress
-Taking photos of a child in sexual poses

Non-Contact abuse is child sex abuse. It is harmful to children and it is against the law

July 7th – Who Abuses Children?

Often we have an image of what an offender looks like and frequently that is a shifty looking man who probably drives a white van and hangs out at playgrounds. In addition – we often assign the term ‘pedophile’ to them.

While some abusers are pedophiles,male, look shifty and maybe even drive around in white vans – the reality is quite different.
More often than not children are abused by people known and trusted. They are teachers, coaches, neighbours, parents, step-parents, babysitters, clergy – anyone. And it is not just males who abuse children but females as well.

In our next few series of posts we will explore situational offenders vs pedophiles. These are important distinctions that will help you to protect children.



Healing from Child Sex Abuse

It took me 42 years to finally tell someone that I had been sexually abused as a child starting from the age of 5. That’s a long time to carry a secret. More than that – it is a long time to move through life not truly living. Hiding so much of yourself. Coping through drug use. Suffering from panic disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts. Dropping out of school. Being re-victimized and never feeling worthy. Thinking that you are the only one…the only person who feels such shame. That was my reality and on December 13, 2005  I broke that silence and began the journey to wellness.

Since disclosure I have moved forward and turned my pain into something valuable and healing. Starting Voice Found has been a labour of love and has helped in my healing so very much. One of the most significant things I discovered on this journey is the importance of knowing that I am not alone. That I am not the only person who has woken in fear during the middle of the night certain that ‘he’ was there. That I am not the only one who can’t walk alone in the woods or enjoy a simple sunny afternoon in a meadow. That dental appointments are like facing the gallows or that a certain smell or touch can bring me back to that 5 year old child who does not understand what is happening. Learning that what happened to me at such a young age was the reason my life felt so out of control was a gift. Finally things made sense.

That conversation – that understanding – that voice where there was once silence – it is so powerful when shared. 

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Lauriane – a vibrant young woman from France who now calls Canada home. She shared with me her story and told me of her plan to bike across Canada as part of her healing journey. BIKE. ACROSS. CANADA!!!!!!??????  She wanted to get people talking about child sex abuse as she felt that it was still so shrouded in silence and that there was so much more support needed for survivors. I wholeheartedly agreed. Her idea was to get survivors talking about ways they heal and to shed light on organizations across Canada that provide help to survivors. For her, biking and physical activity is healing.  And so when she said she wanted to do this ride from Vancouver to Ottawa THIS SUMMER and would I support her- how could I say no?

This is Lauriane’s journey. We are providing moral support, encouragement and through the power of social media want to help connect her to as many survivors and organizations as possible along the way. Her website is live and through GPS and social media you will be able to follow her journey. We would love to see you bike a few kilometers with her, cheer her on and share your stories of healing. And, if you are so inspired, we have been selected as her charity of choice. Funds raised will help us in our mission of preventing child sex abuse and commercial sexual exploitation.

I will be at the starting line on July 4th! If you are in Vancouver (Third Beach in Stanley Park to be exact) – the ride starts at 10:00 AM local time.

Time to ‘Break The Chain’.

Cynthia – Founder and CEO of Voice Found



I See You

Friday, February 23rd we hosted the first annual Voicefound [un]gala. Our special guest for the evening was Torre Marie – a survivor of child sex abuse and the subject of our soon to be released documentary, ‘The Yellow Dress – A Story of Hope.’  Torre spoke to the crowd after the documentary was aired and her words made a significant impact on all who were there. Many have asked for a copy of what she said and so we are happy to share her speech below.

“Last week I quickly heard someone state that being described as lost is being described as valuable.

It began a firestorm of thoughts. To be lost and to be noticed means at least one other person sees you. Values you. Misses you. Is looking for you.

I have been invisible a very long time. Most of the time I still feel that way.
There are certain people in a person’s life that can be invaluable – they have insight in knowing, proclaiming, and speaking to the lost and forgotten. Personally, these people in my life are my Traumatologist, Cynthia Bland and Voicefound, and a very few friends I have here tonight.
There are too many times where we as a society don’t look up. Where we yell for each other to stop doing what we are doing to survive and remind each other of the annoyances our coping has created. There are too many lost with no one noticing. To many people walking around invisible. Unvalued, and misunderstood.  What you have done tonight. What you can continue to do tonight and everyday from here on is to say “I see you.”
By being here and by supporting this fundraiser and VoiceFound, you are saying, “you are lost, we notice, we care and we are going to help find you.” So I thank you. Without the support of Cynthia and Voicefound, and the others I mentioned I would still feel invisible. So I offer my gratitude, I know you see me. You accept me for who I am. Where I am. And most importantly you are on this journey with me to find me.
For a long time I was lost. I was lost and walking around in this world unnoticed. My experiences and my pain unvalidated. It wasn’t until I was seen in my darkest hours that I knew I was worth something. Worth the work, worth the fight, to heal and to find freedom from the invisibility that suffocated all hope.
To the survivors here tonight. I see you. I know you’re lost. I will help search for you. I am one of you. You are not alone. We matter.”
Thank you, Torre. Thank you for your courage, your beautiful vulnerability and for inspiring so many.

voicefound [un]gala

The Yellow Dress Project

Torre Marie is a survivor of child sex abuse who started painting as a way to heal from her trauma. She produced a series of paintings called ‘The Yellow Dress Project’. Here she talks about the paintings and their significance.

Why the yellow?

“I’ve been asked this a lot. I’m not really one who tends to be a yellow person. The colour is probably on my least favourite list, well it was. This project has changed my perception of the colour. After considering the choices to represent such a delicate part of myself, yellow happened to ‘fall onto the canvas’ so to speak. The yellow represents my hope. The process of healing can be dark and it can feel lonely. Trauma can sound scary to people on the outside, it creates an uncertainty. Truly though it is just as scary and filled with just as much uncertainty to the person who is experiencing and healing from Trauma. It requires a great deal of hope, trust, and whole lot of faith to consider going through the painful healing process. I will be honest, sometimes I have lost sight of those things and as long as I keep going I find it again. The yellow reminds me that hope exists even though at times it can feel like it doesn’t.”

Why are all the girls silhouettes?

“The answer to this is one that requires delicate words. The easy answer is that the contrast is beautiful. That’s the easy answer though. The truth is that the silhouettes represent the shame. Shame is the I am _____, (unworthy, stupid, undeserving, etc.) It has a tendency to swallow up the uniqueness. It swallows up the talents, dreams, and future in my case. Shame is deeply painful, it occurs in everyone and in many different situations. Shame for survivors of childhood trauma is usually what fuels the silence and fuels the “I’m the only one” mentality. I learned a lot and healed a lot learning about shame. Brene Brown’s book, “I thought it was just me (but it wasn’t)” provided me with insight and understanding into shame that lead to healing breakthroughs, I strongly recommend it. When we shed the blackness of the shame, we can find our uniqueness.

We need the yellow dress to do that though, we need the hope of better, days, nights, tomorrow’s, of health, strength, and love. We need the hope of being worthy of love, compassion, empathy. We simply need hope of good. So when I look at these paintings that’s what I see. That is what I am reminded of.”

Torre Marie

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Torre Marie. She had travelled to Leduc, Alberta where we were delivering facilitator training and we spent some time after class talking. During the course of the conversation, she expressed to me that there were so many people with stories about child sex abuse that needed to be told. We both recognized that most stories were of famous people and people of means who could afford treatment. We started thinking about how important it was to tell more stories. Stories from the ‘every day’ person. Stories from those who can’t work because of their trauma. Stories from people who have not had support of partners or family or therapists. Stories of incredibly brave people who despite the odds – despite the trauma – despite the lack of support – have found hope. Stories of resilience and courage that would help other survivors know they are not alone. Stories that would educate others as to the significant impact that sexual abuse has on a child.

It simply made sense to me that Torre Marie tell her story.

Filmed in Lethbridge Alberta,  ‘The Yellow Dress – A Story of Hope’ will debut on February 24th, 2017 at our fundraiser. In addition, we will be auctioning off some paintings from The Yellow Dress Project.

Torre Marie will be here – her first trip ever to Eastern Canada. Let’s give her a warm Ottawa welcome (yes, even in February).

See you at the Voicefound [un]gala!


It’s not just “talk”



Like so many others, I found myself greatly disturbed by the recently leaked video of Donald Trump essentially referring to women as his play things. What has been equally, if not more upsetting, is the throng of people, including women, who are simply dismissing the talk as “locker room” antics that are somehow acceptable if kept private. Perhaps it bears reminding that kissing and groping women without their consent is a form of sexual assault.

Let me be abundantly clear: On no level, private or otherwise, is it acceptable to speak of or treat women as anything less than human beings. The sort of thinking that sees girls and women as objects of men’s whim is what gives rise to the issues that Voicefound is working so hard to remedy and heal. Sexual exploitation, aggression and rape are rooted in a mindset that continues to permeate society today.

We can thank Trump for bringing it into our current discourse. We now need to firmly and resolutely express our absolute abhorrence of such “talk” and behaviour. It doesn’t matter who is saying it, it is wrong. We have an opportunity now to rise up and put an end to such talk and perhaps it will eventually seep into a very disturbed mindset.

It is not only words. It is deeply upsetting and feeds the thinking that often results in abhorrent behaviour. There are reportedly 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada every year. According to research by University of Ottawa Professor Holly Johnson, only 33 of 1000 assaults are reported to police. Of those, 29 are recorded as crime, with 12 charges resulted. Final convictions: 3.

It is 2016. Time to see girls and women as human beings on an equal footing with men. Women are not play things nor are they put on this earth to satisfy men’s urges. If you know this, then speak up. If you don’t, take a lesson. This sort of “talk” must end now.