Osoyoos workshop puts focus on sexual exploitation of children

Vancouver-based Children of the Street Society will present strategies to ensure kids don't fall victim to sexual exploitation

Parents can get a crash course next week on strategies they can put to work to help make sure their kids don’t fall victim to sexual exploitation.

Awareness of the issue was heightened last month in the wake of the suicide of Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons. The 17-year-old killed herself after being cyber-bullied about a photo that circulated online and allegedly depicted her being sexually assaulted.

The Vancouver-based Children of the Street Society will touch on that case during a session with parents on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Osoyoos Secondary School Mini Theatre.

“With technology, (cyber-bullying) is actually exploding in all communities,” said Diane Sowden, who will run the workshop and is also the executive director of Children of the Street.

Among other things, the session will explain to parents the different forms of sexual exploitation and how to spot warning signs in their children, plus provide strategies to safeguard their kids and get help.

Sowden said cyber-bullying may be a relatively new phenomenon, but its roots in exploitation are not.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years, so it’s not a new issue to the Children of the Street Society.”

Society staff will also spend Monday and Tuesday conducting workshops for Grades 6 and 7 students in Oliver, Osoyoos, Okanagan Falls and Keremeos.

Taking Care of Ourselves, Taking Care of Others sessions will focus on goal-setting and decision-making,  strategies to avoid exploitative situations on the Internet, plus drug-and-alcohol prevention strategies.

The Osoyoos branch of Soroptimist International partnered with the Okanagan Similkameen School District to make the workshops happen.

Soroptimist project co-chair Lidia Ferreira said her female-focused group, which supports a local women’s shelter among other things, needed to raise $4,500 to make the visits possible.

“The community has been very supportive, not just businesses, but independent people have stepped forward too,” Ferreira said.