Vanderhoof parents launches community program to stop youth exploitation

The Youth Exploitation Safety (YES) program will educate Vanderhoof in how to protect each other against sexual exploitation.

It Can Happen to Anyone (ITCHA) is a prevention based workshop designed for parent groups

Vanderhoof needs education on stopping the sexual exploitation of vulnerable females, NVSS’s PAC said.

Launched this year by the Parent Advisory Committee of NVSS with government funding, the Youth Exploitation Safety (YES) program will educate the district’s youth and community in how to protect each other against sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

The idea for the program was conceived last year when the committee became aware of image or verbal sharing of sexual content among high school students, said Julie Hodson, PAC president of NVSS.

“It’s not only the danger of our youth being exploited but also criminal repercussions too,” Hodson said, referencing a case in Kamloops last year where two boys were criminally charged for sharing inappropriate content. “We see a need that there is something to be done.”

Marcia Kelemen from PAC said students may not be aware of their actions’ impact.

“They tend to take it chill, no big deal,” Kelemen said. “It’s just an initiative to bring awareness to the ramifications…the seriousness of their online interactions.”

Another concern lies not with the perpetrators, but the recipients of the shared content, Hodson added.

“The person who didn’t ask for that image is now in possession of something illegal,” she said. “How do you deal with that, if you receive something.”

With age-appropriate content for different grades, the program’s first event for youth will take place on Oct. 9 in NVSS. Featuring Amir Javid, a former gang member who had founded the Real World Truth project to help kids stay out of gangs, the event will focus on technology’s effects on everyday teenage life, as well as high risk behavior and pornography.

On Nov. 12 at 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in NVSS’s small auditorium, the first event for adults and parents will play host to the Children of the Streets Society’s Diane Sowden, who had lost her own 13-year-old daughter to the sex trade.

Events with other speakers for youth and the rest of the community will follow later in November, as well as next year from January to March.