Using ‘bad’ money for good: helping victims

Civil Forfeiture Grant Supports Servants Anonymous

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation are insidious crimes that affect victims, their families, and the communities in which they occur. Calgary’s Servants Anonymous Society has helped victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking since 1989 through the Ask, Seek, Knock (ASK) services program.

To help the group continue their work, Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General presented a $250,000 Civil Forfeiture Fund grant on June 25 to Servants Anonymous for  the ASK program. The presentation was made in Calgary at the Stampede Extravaganza benefit concert hosted by Grace Presbyterian Church in support of Servants Anonymous.

Nicole's quiltMarina Giacomin, executive director of Servants Anonymous, describes the ASK program as “the core service that we have been offering for a quarter of a century. It is an intensive/extensive life skills program.” ASK helps women to value themselves, heal from experience, and contribute back to the community.

Giacomin is passionate about the program and the profound effect it has on women’s lives: “They’re somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. There’s something about the work that happens at Servants, there’s this community feel here and we really believe in this value of mutuality. We’re all in this journey together.”

The program has capacity for 20 women and there is childcare available so children can remain with their mothers while they are in the program. Participants in the program attend daily and, according to Giacomin, the ASK program is “the only one that’s been written by and informed by the experience of survivors.” Women in the program help update the curriculum to ensure it remains relevant.

The ASK program helps approximately 50 women per year and the success rate is impressive. The program tracks women who complete the year-long ASK program, which includes a period living in a safe house and six months of paid work experience, or returning to school or university. After two years, there is an 88 per cent success rate for women staying in recovery and out of exploitive situations. Even those women who attend only a portion of the program have a success rate of more than 70 per cent two years later.

The grant for the ASK program—$125,000 for each of the next two years—is through the Civil Forfeiture Fund. Through the Civil Forfeiture Office, property gained through criminal acts, or used in committing crime, is seized and if the court action is successful, forfeiture is ordered. Examples of forfeited property include vehicles used to commit crime, drug houses, and cash.

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