Mr. Anybody: He’s the customer of underage prostitutes. And these types of johns are numerous in their search for fresh meat, making underage prostitution a flourishing business. That’s what the in-your-face documentary Trafic told us in the fall of 2019.
How come so many men participate in the sexual exploitation of minors? What can we as a society do stop these sex offenders and make sure they never reoffend? Even more importantly: how do we stop the proliferation of all these aggressors?
By Martine Letarte
“Sex offenders;” “assailants;” these are the words of Jonathan James, professor of psychology at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR). He’s a specialist in the evaluation and treatment of sex offenders. At the Philippe-Pinel Institute, a psychiatric medical-legal facility, he performs psychological follow-ups on patients who have committed an assault, or who are afraid they will commit an assault.
“Buying sexual services is illegal. So men found guilty of this crime are sex offenders, and if their victim was a minor, they are sex offenders against a minor,” he explains. And yet, few men who purchase the sexual services of young girls see themselves that way.
However, Trafic and the popular TV series La Fugueuse (the Runaway) have helped raise awareness of this reality among Quebecers. Since they were aired, l’équipe intégrée de lutte contre le proxénétisme (the integrated team to fight pimping, or EILP), a joint effort between the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the Montreal police (SPVM), has noted an upsurge in denunciations. In 2018, they handled 300 files concerning pimping, 42% of which involved minors; this number jumped to 381 in 2020, with about the same proportion of juvenile victims.
Since its creation in 2017, the EILP has mounted 13 operations against johns, leading to the arrest of 86 people. “We’re able to make strides in our files with the manpower at hand, but if we had more staff and resources, we’d certainly be able to do more,” says Sylvain Dumouchel, commander of the EILP and an officer in the sexual exploitation section of the SPVM.