‘It was the men who bought me who caused me the most harm in my life,’ says sexual exploitation survivor
Bridget Perrier talks about her experiences in the sex trade – as a young Indigenous girl – at the MMIWG2S+ event in Sault Ste. Married
A survivor of sexual exploitation shared her story during Sault Ste. Monday, the annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit event of Mary.
This year’s virtual event featured Bridget Perrier, an Indigenous woman who has dedicated her life to educating the public about sexual exploitation and supporting those caught in the cycle of prostitution.
“Everyone says you choose prostitution, and I don’t believe it. I believe prostitution chooses you based on the trauma of the child, and I was a perfect candidate for prostitution,” she told attendees during her virtual presentation.
Perrier was adopted before being sexually abused by a friend of her adoptive family at the age of eight, only to be returned to children’s aid at the age of 11 after exhibiting behavioral problems in his adopted home.
She was sent to a group home for girls when she was 12, where she was groomed for the sex trade within three or four months by girls in the home who were older than her.
“One of the girls already had experience in the sex trade. She introduced me to an old man, and his thing was that he liked the new girl experience,” she recalled. “So we all manually stimulated it and the more you laughed, the more money was left under the Kleenex box – and it opened.
“Wow, I can make $400 and I really don’t have to do anything.”
Perrier was then recruited by a madam who owned brothels in Halifax and Thunder Bay, where she served people when she was between 12 and 14 years old.
“Some of the women who worked at the brothel didn’t want to work with me because they had daughters my age,” she said.
It wasn’t long, Perrier says, before a pimp found her at a Toronto airport as she was walking to catch a connecting flight.
The pimp would beat Perrier and other women he had recruited, literally marking the corner where they were supposed to work with an “X”.
“He was handsome, he was so handsome. He showed me attention, and I had no idea he was one of the biggest child pimps, child pimps that Canada had” , she said.
Perrier would eventually be rescued by her mother and brought back to Thunder Bay.
“The most damage done to me in my life has been done by the men who bought me,” she said.
Perrier would eventually find healing in the Aboriginal community of Toronto, going to George Brown College and graduating from the school’s community service program.
In 2007, she co-founded Sex Trade 101, a survivor-led organization that raises awareness about prostitution and trafficking and offers support to those still involved in prostitution.
Perrier has spoken several times before the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and advocated for the passage of Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Actin addition to other federal laws dealing with sexual exploitation.
The mother of five is now speaking out about the harms Indigenous women and women of color face in the sex trade, while dispelling myths around sex work – including sex work as a choice for women .
“Laws don’t kill women, the street doesn’t kill women. It is the men who kill the women. We have to look at that,” she said.
According to a 2020 report by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Indigenous women are more than twice as likely to report having been victims of physical and sexual violence as Indigenous men, and are three times more likely to report having been victims of domestic violence as non-Aboriginal women.