Ignorance bliss for predators

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie will officially declare March 10 to 16, 2014, Stop the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth Awareness Week.

While Richmond is not known for its street prostitution, children and youth in the community are still at risk for exploitation - either behind closed doors, or having been relocated to a different city or municipality, according to Leslie Chesick from Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

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Chesick believes the best way to combat the problem is through raising awareness.

"Being aware, being able to spot warning signs, this is what we are after. We want to be preventative."

Chesick points out that although Richmond is a relatively affluent community, poverty - a major contributor to the problem - still exists here. Plus, other factors such as low self-esteem are a concern here as well.

"The sexual exploitation of children and youth continues to be a stark reality in the Richmond community. It's important to keep this issue at the forefront, as predators hate nothing more than educated and aware adults and caregivers," says Carol Hardie, Coordinator of the Touchstone Day Program.

"It's only when we accept we have a problem that we are able to support positive change, through prevention for vulnerable children and youth, and in increased charges and convictions for the adults who exploit them," says Hardie.

The Richmond Community Action Team will be setting up an interactive booth March 15 and 16 at Richmond Centre in order to get the community involved in finding solutions to the problem and to raise awareness about the issue.

Fuchsia ribbons and bracelets, worn to show support for ending sexual exploitation, will be available, as well as information on local support and advocacy groups.

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