Edmontonians collaborate for change

Edmonton recognized Sexual Exploitation Week of Awareness with a series of events, April 18-22.

The week began with a proclamation ceremony on April 18 with dignitaries, community leaders and Edmontonians addressing the issue of exploitation.

"I would like to acknowledge that sexual exploitation is a problem that is deeply entrenched in our history and our society," said MLA Rod Loyola at the proclamation. "There is much to be done and I thank all the people and organizations that dedicate their time and energy to building awareness and create change on this deeply concerning issue."

A public event plus a one-and-a-half-day professional conference on Collaborative Efforts for Change wrapped up the week.

Kathy King shared her deeply personal story of her daughter who was a victim of sexual exploitation during the Thursday evening public event.

King spoke about the dynamics of exploitation, vulnerability in families, the denial in society and the monumental shift of consciousness that must occur to create universal equality and respect for women.

"I learned new information, am leaving inspired to continue my work in public education and feeling motivated to lobby politically for education funding to help teach young men and women the truth about healthy relationships versus exploitation," said one attendee.

More than 120 people attended the conference, which featured keynote speakers Karen Bruno and Aaron Paquette who each shared their personal stories.

A variety of workshops including sexual abuse and exploitation of boys and men, trauma recovery, building men's capacity to work against gender-based violence, sexualized racism against Asian women and the role of law enforcement were offered throughout both days of the conference.

This annual week of awareness is organized and hosted by the Sexual Exploitation Working Group (SEWG) - an Edmonton-based leadership group collaborating to create awareness of sexual exploitation and its causes and impacts. The SEWG is a collaborative of community partners, law enforcement, municipal and provincial government, and REACH Edmonton.