The hunt for pimps has reopened across Quebec with nearly a hundred new charges in recent months compared to the start of the year.
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“We are happy to see that the system is breaking in a little, that the prosecutors seem less hesitant to authorize the files”, rejoices Marie-Michèle Whitlock, worker at the Center for help and the fight against sexual assault (CALACS ) in the Eastern Townships, even if there is still work to be done, particularly for the care of victims.
In January and February, 29 files related to pimping were opened across Quebec, according to a compilation by the Journal. Since then, 93 new indictments have been filed.
And they concern alleged pimps from all over Quebec, from Greater Montreal to the Capitale-Nationale region to the judicial districts of Roberval and Gatineau.
At this rate, by the end of the year, the Crown could be close to its 2019 record, with 218 open cases.
According to stakeholders, these increases are attributable to several factors. For example, over time, investigators have developed more in-depth expertise that allows them to better conduct a case.
Quebec has also released large budgets to give them the means to track down pimps and convict them.
Complainants are also better supported in their efforts to get out of the cycle of sexual exploitation, says Jennie-Laure Sully, community organizer at the Concertation des Luttes contre l’Exploitation Sexual.
More financial resources, among other things granted following the report Rebuilding Trust, have made it possible to better equip each player in the system, learned Le Journal.
And with the money invested in tracking down street gangs and the trafficking of drugs and weapons, the police are increasingly coming across cases of pimping as they investigate.
Still, the authorities still depend on the will of the victims of sexual exploitation to file a complaint, recalls Me Eve Malouin, Crown prosecutor specializing in this type of case.
"If no one comes knocking on the door of the police to denounce, in 99% of cases, we cannot file a case," she recalls.
Many victims sometimes take a long time to realize that they are in fact being exploited.
But if the authorities are better equipped to fight against pimping, governments must invest more in social services, insist some speakers [see other text].
And on top of all that, the police also have to target clients of sexually exploited women. Because “as long as there is demand, there will be pimps,” says Ms. Sully.
During pimping trials, it is regularly presented that when an advertisement is posted online concerning sexual services offered by a teenager or a young woman, there can be several hundred responses in a few hours.
The Longueuil police have also set up a program this year specifically targeting customers, reported Le Journal last month.
In addition to the injection of funds to track pimps rampant in Quebec, governments should invest more in social services to help victims get out of it, say experts.
"It has to go beyond police operations," says Jennie-Laure Sully, community organizer at the Concertation des Luttes contre l'Exploitation Sexuale.
It is that filing a complaint with the police is not always the option chosen by the victims, recalls for her part Marie-Michèle Whitlock, worker at CALACS de l’Estrie.
Because, very often, victims who are still in the beginning of the cycle of sexual exploitation, but who want to get out of it, will not report to the police.
Others will find it difficult to leave this sphere, whether because of money or consumer issues. Some will also be afraid of reprisals.
"Very often, pimps use threats to prevent their victims from talking," recalls Ms. Sully.
Thus, it becomes essential to provide a framework for victims of sexual exploitation who seek to change their lives without necessarily going to the police.
"It's hard to get out of the middle," says Ms. Whitlock. Women need alternatives. However, every week, we receive people who have no places to stay,” she said.
Ms. Sully adds that it is necessary for victims to have access to a package of measures that include support groups and medical assistance, among others.
However, resources are still too scarce, which puts a brake on the fight against sexual exploitation.
Ms. Sully, however, underlines the progress made to convict the pimps.
But she reminds that this hunt for pimps has its limits, since each time one of them is arrested, there is another to take his place.
“We have to go to the source of the problem,” she says, calling for more operations concerning those who “create the demand”, that is to say the customers.