A Prince George woman says she was forced into a life of prostitution, drugs and violence as a young teen, while she was supposed to be under the protection of B.C.’s foster care system.
She filed a civil lawsuit against the Government of B.C. on April 18, claiming the Ministry of Child and Family Services neglected to keep her safe and failed to act when she voiced what was happening to her.
The woman, who Black Press Media isn’t naming, says she was taken into foster care in 1997 when she was 13 years old. In 1999, the ministry placed her in a group home for teenagers, but shifted her one month later into a shelter for adult women fleeing violence.
Just 15 years old at the time, the woman claims the shelter had no supervision for someone her age.
She says in her lawsuit that while living there she was introduced to a number of people who ran a prostitution ring in Prince George and that they slowly forced her into the sex trade, using drugs, alcohol, coercion, violence and threats. Those people were later convicted of numerous crimes, including profiting from prostitution, according to the civil claim.
The woman says she told numerous employees of the ministry about what was going on and said that she was being sexually assaulted, but that she wasn’t moved to a new home and wasn’t protected.
“…the Plaintiff fell into a devastating life of addiction, violence and prostitution, until she was in her early twenties, at which time, after a period of incarceration, she was able to recover from that life style…”
The lawsuit claims the impacts of that period of her young life have had devastating mental, physical, social and financial effects on the woman. She says she’s since suffered from a multitude of mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and an eating disorder, and has struggled with suicidal thoughts, self harm, loss of self-worth and abnormal social and sexual development.
She says all of this, combined with the fact that she stopped going to school at age 15, has amounted to lost income and earning potential as well.
None of her allegations have been proven in court and the B.C. government hasn’t filed a response to her civil claim yet, but the prevalence of sexual violence committed against children in government care is documented.
In 2016, the Representative for Children and Youth in B.C. released a report that found 145 instances of sexualized violence against 121 kids in care between 2004 and 2014. The actual number is likely far higher due to the low reporting rate among survivors.
The report also found sexualized violence was disproportionately suffered by certain demographics of kids. More than 90 per cent of the children were girls, and a majority of the girls were Indigenous. Of the 121 kids, 74 of them were Indigenous girls.
The kids reported similar struggles to those cited in the Prince George woman’s lawsuit. Close to 20 per cent said they harmed themselves or attempted suicide in the year after being sexually assaulted, around 50 per cent said they had substance use issues and more than 70 per cent reported mental health issues.
The Representative for Children and Youth said more recent statistics from 2015/16 show sexualized violence is the most common type of critical injury for kids in care, at 21 per cent.