Being a Support Person

Victims of trafficking or exploitation often do not seek help because they are being trafficked. They come for other reasons. Victims might be looking for medical attention, legal advice, or a harm reduction program. They might also be looking for support with, food, shelter or clothing.

If you notice signs that a young person might be sexually exploited, consider:

  • Do you have a good relationship with this person? Is it good enough that you could have a conversation about this?
  • Is there a caregiver or trusting adult that the young person has a relationship with? Could you talk with that person to share what you have noticed?
  • Is the young person safe?

Putting safety first

Always start with safety. This could include:

  • Asking if it is safe to leave a voicemail or send a text message to their phone.
  • Ensuring that the young person knows your phone number and contact information, without it being logged into a phone or written down.
  • Encouraging them to use high privacy settings if they are on social media, and encourage them not to post photos of themselves.

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  • Making a safety plan together. This might include:
    • other supports to contact
    • what to do if they are late for a meeting with you
    • a secret word to be used in regular conversation to let the other person know that you have urgent safety concerns
    • precautions at home or at work, such as: locking doors/windows; keeping knives safely stored in drawers instead of in a block; practicing quick exit plans; varying their travel routes for regular activities

Building trust

Click below to learn more about the ways in which you can build trust with young people:

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Duty to report

In Nova Scotia, every person has a legal duty to report any reasonable suspicion that a child under the age of 16 has been, is being, or is likely to be, abused or neglected. If the abuse or neglect is caused by their parent or guardian, the law also requires you to report suspected abuse if the young person is aged 16 to 18 years old.

The duty to report is outlined in Sections 23-25 of the Children and Family Services Act.

Here is a summary:

Is the child under 16?

You have a duty to immediately report suspected abuse (including sexual exploitation) or neglect to a child welfare agency.

Is the child 16-18?

You have a duty to immediately report suspected abuse (including sexual exploitation) or neglect to a child welfare agency if…

- the person who has been, may be or is causing harm is a parent or guardian

Or

- another child, under the age of 16, might also be at risk of abuse or neglect

Is the youth 19 or older?

You do not have a legal duty to report.

Ask the young person if they would like your support to connect with service providers or police.

When talking with the young person, let them know if you are required to make a referral to child welfare, and give them as much autonomy in the situation as you can. They can make the call with you, or they can let you know what information they would like to pass along.

When you call, you will be asked for information about the child/youth, your relationship with the child/youth, the reason you suspect abuse or neglect, as well as any other information that is considered relevant to the safety and wellbeing of the child/youth, other children and family members and service providers.

Once you make a report, child protection social workers will assess the information to determine whether a child protection investigation is required.

Who to contact

If the duty to report applies:

  • Call the Child Protection intake team where the young person lives. Offices are open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • After hours (4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.), call the Provincial After-Hours Response Team at 1-866-922-2434
  • For Indigenous children/youth residing in Mi’kmaw Communities, call Mi’kmaw Family and Children Services:
    • Mainland communities: 1-800-263-8686
    • Cape Breton communities: 1-800-263-8300