New book review on Sex Industry Slavery



The Canadian Criminal Justice Association

Book Review

CJCCJ/Volume 64.3 (2022)

Sex industry slavery: Protecting Canada’s youth

By Robert Chrismas

Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 2020. 277 p.

Robert Chrismas’ Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth offers a unique contribution to the existing adolescent sexual exploitation and human trafficking discourse by presenting the author’s practical solution-based research using a comprehensive qualitative approach. Whereas much of the available youth sex trafficking research focuses on gathering headcounts of victims and providing ‘shock and awe’ estimates of the financial lucrativeness of the industry, Chrismas’ book helps to fill the persistent gap in effective responses to adolescent sex trafficking with first-hand perspectives of young sex trafficking survivors and the frontline service providers that are dedicated to helping them. The voice of each expert is qualitatively woven among the existing literature on this issue to answer Chrismas’ central thesis question: what can we learn from those working on the issue of youth sexual exploitation and from those most affected by it?

Although it is not explicitly organized using the United Nations’ “4Ps” pillars (i.e., prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership), Sex Industry Slavery achieves its purpose by compiling the collective knowledge of youth sex trafficking victims, law enforcement, social workers, policymakers, and other advocates to address challenges across the entire 4Ps continuum. From identifying at-risk and vulnerable youth to extricating youth who are entrenched in a life of sexual exploitation, to prosecuting traffickers and bolstering comprehensive aftercare supports for survivors, the book provides practical solutions for governments, law enforcement, and frontline service providers working to address this issue. Importantly, Chrismas does this by highlighting the narratives and insights of his research participants to offer a data storytelling approach to the practical solutions offered throughout.

Chrismas’ introduction positions child and youth sex trafficking in the larger sphere of various interrelated social and justice issues, including child maltreatment, child sexual abuse, social disparity, marginalization, prostitution, organized crime, and basic human rights. This is important as child and sex trafficking is a complex issue that has roots in all these issues. The author provides an in-depth discussion about the vulnerability of children that are victims of child abuse early in life, along with how social disparity, opportunistic exploiters, legislative shortcomings, and ongoing debates about victimization and agency in the sex industry continue to perpetuate opportunities for children and youth to be sexually exploited in Canada.

Leveraging these points, Chrismas’ book spans several important topics on youth sex trafficking in Canada, including the unique vulnerabilities and experiences of Indigenous women and girls, the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s anti-trafficking legislation, escaping the grip of entrenchment in the lifestyle of youth sexual exploitation, and recommendations for next steps at the government and community levels to effectively prevent youth exploitation, protect survivors, prosecute exploiters, and remove barriers to service through strategic interagency partnerships. These themes already comprise a sizable portion of the larger body of human trafficking discourse, however, Sex Industry

Slavery can provide a fresh, Canadian-centered, problem-solving perspective that is often missing from academic research on youth sexual exploitation. For example, much of the American literature on youth sex trafficking addresses the ongoing criminalization of young victims across the country. Many local and state government bodies, child protection ministries, and law enforcement agencies have only recently shifted their perspective on youth sexual exploitation away from the view that these youth are ‘juvenile prostitutes’ that should be criminalized, toward the understanding that sexually exploited youth are victims of abuse. Consequently, systems have been slow to respond to youth sexual exploitation. In Canada, however, child and youth sexual exploitation has been treated as a form of child abuse for nearly two decades, and so the need to advocate for these youth as victims is unnecessary. What Canada needs – and what Chrismas argues throughout Sex Industry Slavery – is to let the voices of experts and individuals with lived experience inform the development and implementation of a well-overdue action plan.

Sex Industry Slavery contributes to the larger body of human trafficking scholarship with its emphasis on the inclusion of stories and insights from survivors and other subject matter experts. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity” (Adichie, 2009). Through interviews with over sixty survivors of youth sex trafficking, Chrismas shares their raw and poignant stories, which serve to reiterate just how devastating and traumatizing sexual exploitation is for an individual.

These stories are critical to the discourse on youth sex trafficking as the available data both nationally and internationally on this issue does not adequately communicate the devastating impact on these youth, nor is it enough to solely serve as a catalyst for change among governments and systems. It often simply serves to inform rather than compel.

Chrismas’ research highlights the importance of telling the story behind the data to effect change. For example, a consistent underlying theme throughout Sex Industry

Slavery is that many survivors could have been protected from exploitation or saved from it much earlier if people or agencies knew what to look for and were able to respond. As Chrismas points out, “some survivors told gripping stories about how they could have been saved from trafficking and exploitation if someone in their care circle had recognized the signs and known how to intervene” (p. 124). Paying particular attention to the narratives of survivors is important, especially considering the persistent challenge of gathering accurate and reliable quantitative data that plagues research on human trafficking.

In addition to presenting survivor stories and insights to better understand and address youth sexual exploitation, Chrismas spends a considerable amount of time advocating for urgent action. He does not merely share survivor stories and insights from experts and practitioners as a way of lamenting all the challenges around addressing youth sex trafficking; instead, he compiles these perspectives into a full chapter of key findings and recommendations for responses that will lead to tangible impacts in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. With a focus on community-based, multidisciplinary approaches to youth sex trafficking, Chrismas provides his reader with a comprehensive roadmap for change that includes calls for increased funding, improved access to treatment and aftercare supports for survivors, increased law enforcement capacity to investigate and charge exploiters, strengthened community collaboration and partnership, and enhanced education, training, and awareness across sectors and stakeholder groups. Although Chrismas’ findings and recommendations do not deviate from much of the existing research on youth sexual exploitation, his research adds significant value to the growing – albeit slowly – body of Canadian literature.

Sex Industry Slavery is a worthwhile read for students, law enforcement officers, child protection workers, human trafficking advocates, policy makers, and any other stakeholder with an interest in understanding how to better respond to youth sexual exploitation. Anyone, regardless of their existing experience and expertise on human trafficking, can acquire new knowledge from the insights provided through Chrismas’ research.



Wedding Social in honour of Brandi Chrismas and Keith Schellenberg, 24 September.

Wedding Social in honour of Brandi Chrismas and Keith Schellenberg, 24 September. I have tickets if anyone is in for a good time – drinks, dancing, and lots of fun! Tickets are only $10 and there are great prizes to be won including appliances and a 55 inch TV! If you can’t join us on the 24th please consider a support ticket for $10. Every support ticket gets a chance at a $200 cash prize!

Spotlighted by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild

Pretty cool to be SPOTLIGHTED as a Manitoba author by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild this month. It feels like not long ago I debated whether I would be called an “author” or not.
In July I will provide a workshop on writing non-fiction.

Spotlight by the MWG


What’s your genre?  My writing lane was academic, having learned to write mostly through my grad studies, working through my Master Public Administration and then later my PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies. One of my professors had suggested why not publish papers you write for course assignments? It sent me on a whole new publications path. I found though, over the years, that I really preferred writing literature for formats that had a chance of reaching a broader audience. Articles and opinion pieces seemed fulfilling. With over 40 journal articles, several book chapters, and many other smaller pieces I had always wondered about fiction.     Then the pandemic came and I found myself locked down in my home office for several weeks, with that fictional story that I’d been mulling for some time. I didn’t have the details but the general idea was there. It would be a story to raise awareness about sex trafficking in Canada and would draw on my PhD research and over 30 years of policing experience. I viewed several online courses on writing fiction, and YouTube videos that are available for free by the truckload and started to learn about writing fiction. I ordered some classics that are regarded as some of the best written and Amazon brought them right to my door. The biggest difference, I found, was that the fictional story shows more than tells the story.     Once I started writing it, I fell in love with having the freedom to make the story. I was able to highlight the aspects I felt important and describe them with emotion that I felt less of in my non-fiction writing. My first fictional book, The River of Tears was born. I’ll call it literary fiction, because I tried to get into the heads of the protagonists and the challenges that families of missing persons face. I tried to describe dynamics around missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and police-Indigenous relationships in Canada.     When it came time to publish, I started to reach out with proposals and started to receive the usual round of rejections. Then I came across a press that specializes in academic peer reviewed non-fiction with a focus on progressive socially-just publishing. I sent DIO Press a proposal and said I know you do not publish fiction, but I feel this might fit your imprint. They agreed and said they were breaking into fiction.       The two lessons I learned and wish to share with you are as follows. First, don’t get stuck in one genre. Do what your heart desires and see where it takes you. You might not have found your strongest voice if you have not experimented with multiple genres. The second lesson is to not restrict yourself from publishing houses or venues you think might not be interested. Put yourself out there and let them tell you if your work fits their imprint.Learn more about Bob at: Books:The River of Tears. New York: DIO Press Inc. (Bob Chrismas, 2021).Sex Industry Slavery: Protecting Canada’s Youth. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto Press. (Bob Chrismas, 2020).Our Shared Future: Windows into Canada’s Reconciliation Journey. New York: Lexington. (Laura Reimer & Bob Chrismas, 2020).Canadian Policing in the 21st Century: A Frontline Officer on Challenges and Changes. Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen’s University Press. (Bob Chrismas, 2013).

Interview on CJOB/Global regarding a positive Appeal Court Decision that refers to my research.

Audio Vault ( at 13 December, 2021 at 3:36:40PM (refers to my research and book)

Audio Vault ( at 14 December 2021 at 4:36PM

HERE IS THE DECISION:   R. v. Alcorn, 2021 MBCA 101