An unprecedented gift to support survivors of human trafficking

2021-01-13 1:24:27 PM

Women’s College Hospital Foundation is thrilled to announce a $1 million gift from HART Foundation (Human Anti-trafficking Response Team) (HART) to help launch a groundbreaking new research-based initiative at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) for those affected by human trafficking for the purpose of sexual and economic exploitation.

“Sex trafficking is the fastest growing crime in Canada, and in some instances, has tripled over the last three-year period. As an organized crime, sex trafficking is second only to guns and the drug trade internationally,” states Kelly Grier-Nadal, founder of HART Foundation. HART is committed to supporting the recovery of sex trafficking survivors by raising public awareness and developing initiatives to address the crisis of trafficking.

“In the past four years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of young women and girls being trafficked throughout Ontario and unfortunately through our research, HART identified a gap in care and rehabilitation for them. Knowing closing the care gap was paramount, we sought a partnership model with a health care leader to provide full-service navigation, counselling, and ongoing mental health support to ensure the success of a survivor’s safe reentry into society.”

One of the challenges of addressing the issue of human trafficking in Canada is the lack of quantitative and qualitative data. Due to the lack of data and subsequent recognition of the problem, there has been little academic research informing coordinated care to address the unique needs of trafficked women and girls. With HART’s support, prominent gender-based violence experts Drs. Janice du Mont and Robin Mason, who collectively have over forty years of experience leading gender-based violence research that has informed care initiatives, will lead the development of a groundbreaking new initiative to help ensure that survivors of sex trafficking can access safe, trauma-informed care.

“This gift offers an unprecedented opportunity to explore gaps in care for survivors of sexual trafficking in a systematic way,” says Dr. Du Mont. “Through environmental scans, community outreach and partnership building, as well engagement with survivors of sex trafficking and health and social service providers, we will learn what is needed to develop appropriate, trauma-informed responses and care for this uniquely underserved community.”

According to Dr. Mason, “this gift is a huge steppingstone towards being able to conduct research to enhance responses to support survivors. It will allow us to develop a program of research in sex trafficking that can be used to inform care and service delivery here at Women’s in partnership with the broader community.”

Women’s College Hospital is well situated to house this new initiative through its world-class research institute and its focus on applying an intersectional sex and gender lens in its studies, as well as its extensive network of community partners within the gender-based violence sector.

HART Foundation, founded in 2017 by philanthropist Kelly Grier-Nadal and passionately supported by board members Tamara Bahry, Debbie McGrath and Carol Wildgoose, is driven by its mission to the health and wellbeing of women, racialized groups and underserved populations.

Kelly says it was an easy decision to choose Women’s College Hospital to partner with HART in their vision to end sex trafficking. “Women’s College Hospital has a tremendous track record of launching innovative initiatives and then deploying their findings for the purpose of teaching. Their success in developing and building a solely focused domestic and sexual assault clinic was one of the reasons we knew this was such a good fit. Our hope is the HART model will follow the same trajectory.”

Women’s College Hospital Foundation extends its deepest gratitude to HART Foundation for their generous support and partnership to deliver quality care to survivors of sex trafficking.