Mother of alleged trafficking victim says system has failed her teen daughter

Ruth Davenport, Metro Halifax
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Tashlynn Marie Shaw, 23, at Halifax provincial court June 19

METRO HALIFAX

A Lower Sackville woman whose daughter was allegedly coerced into prostitution says the problem isn’t the individual who’s facing charges – it’s a larger system that failed, and continues to fail, children.

Tashlynn Shaw, 23, was arrested last week and is facing child trafficking and underage prostitution charges.

Police say the investigation involved two young girls – aged 13 and 14 – who had been forced into the sex trade.

But the mother of one girl says her daughter started selling her body not because of any one adult, but because of a system focused on blame rather than support.

“These girls are out there doing this stuff on their own and it doesn’t seem that anything is being done until someone of age … is there to pin the human trafficking on,” said the woman, whose identity is protected as to not identify her daughter.

The 37-year-old woman says she’s struggling to save her daughter from a life of drug abuse and sexual exploitation, and isn’t getting help from police or any social agencies.

The problems started when the girl was 10 and the woman went through a bad breakup, turning to drugs and even prostitution to cope.

She said the formerly good girl started acting out after watching her mother “fall apart,” running away from home and pushing her mother further into self-destruction.

“I did try to seek help, and (child welfare) did send someone from the IWK – but it took two weeks for them to even get back to me,” said the woman. “She kept saying, (the girl) needs to be taken out of the home, and no one listened. And my whole life fell apart.”

Child welfare took the woman’s four kids, placing them with relatives, friends and foster families. At the age of 13, the eldest followed a friend into the sex trade, posing as a 17-year-old in online ads.

The mother says the girl was in and out of group homes, where a lack of structure enabled her sex work.

“They don’t monitor them,” she said. “(The kids) say they’re going somewhere at 9 a.m., and they leave. And no one checks on where they’re going.”

The woman, who’s been clean since 2012 and has completed parenting and self-help courses, has her three younger kids on weekends and her eldest daughter full-time.

She says her daughter has developed a taste for money and freedom, and doesn’t want the structure of a normal home life – and the system that was quick to take the children away isn’t there to help rebuild.

“They were so focused on the blame that could be put on me and not focusing on how she was feeling and how to deal with her issues with me,” she said. “There’s been more … people that are there to feel sorry for her than want to really get down to the issues.”

Geographic location: Lower Sackville

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