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LAWC reports 75% increase in calls for help following sex trafficking awareness campaign

LAWC says this year's goal is to raise $50,000 towards supporting abused and exploited women and girls. London Abused Women's Centre Website

A recent digital advertising and awareness campaign from the London Abused Women’s Centre focused on tackling sex trafficking is painting a “dire picture” of those in need of help.

The campaign which ran from Feb. 1 to March 31 was aimed at providing information to help women and girls at risk of being trafficked, as well as those who have already been victimized.

Following the campaign, LAWC is reporting a 75 per cent increase in calls for help to the centre and through the Contact Us form on its website.

“COVID-19 has made it difficult for women and girls to reach out for service. Raising awareness through digital advertising helps remind those who are at risk, we are here,” says Jennifer Dunn, associate executive director at LAWC.

Read more: LAWC reports ‘alarming’ surge in demand for services during COVID-19 pandemic

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“We are used to doing adverting campaigns like billboards, posters and bus ads, but we moved into the digital world to see what impact that would have, given with COVID a lot of things are online.”

The digital campaign used targeted ads that people could click on to take them to LAWC’s resources and direct them to contact information to reach out for help.

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The campaign also sent a message to sex buyers that their actions were illegal and when they clicked on the ad, they were brought to a page that listed the criminal offences around sex tracking in Canada.

During the two months the campaign was active, LAWC reports it generated more than 5.14 million impressions, potentially reaching hundreds of thousands of people in London and its surrounding region.

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Dunn said in addition to impressions, they had some 8,000 clicks on the ad to their website.

In April, the organization reported it helped at least 9,235 women and girls during its most recent fiscal period, which ran from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, marking an increase of about 16 per cent compared to the previous fiscal year.

According to LAWC, those figures include 5,400 calls for service and 3,835 people who accessed individual and group support.

“We know that London, Ont., is a destination and recruitment city for sexual exploitation due to its close proximity to [Highway] 401. Using technology to reach out to women and girls who are at risk of being sex trafficked through a digital campaign has consistently been effective,” Dunn said.

–With files from Matthew Trevithick

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