Calgary presentations were awesome!
First thing, thank you to those of you who helped ensure I got to Calgary this week, that is the only way I was able to go – so, bless your hearts. I have been asked not to acknowledge publicly a couple of people, so I will just say to you all – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
I left Kamloops at 1:48pm on a WestJet flight and when I got to Calgary, Crystal and Jessie’s dad, Dwight picked me up and took me to Crystal’s work. She still had an hour left on her shift, and it was supper time, so she cooked me up a storm. It was awesome. Then we went to her place when she got off work.
When Tracy (Crystal & Jessie’s stepmom) got off work, she came right over and we all visited for a while. It was a great visit, just the 3 of us. Jessie’s 2 moms and her older sister.
One thing that Tracy asked that night really hit home – you see, many people have asked the same thing, and over time, I have learned what I believe to be the answer. Tracy said, IT HAS BEEN 5 YEARS AND I STILL CANNOT UNDERSTAND HOW THIS HAPPENED TO JESSIE. I mean, Jessie is the strongest, smartest, sassiest young women we all know. She never took any crap from anyone. She was always in charge of herself. No one walked all over her and CERTAINLY, NO ONE EVER TOLD HER WHAT TO DO (other than her parents and teachers when she was younger). HOW DID THIS HAPPEN TO JESSIE???
I told her and Crystal that this happened to Jessie because someone whose job it was to GET HER, did their job. Jessie was all those things, and perhaps that, with her beauty, made her exactly whatthey wanted. She was probably just what he ordered, prior to Jessie being TAKEN to the United States in May 2005.
Within a month of being arriving in Las Vegas, Jessie was 'dating' Peter Todd, known to the police to be a violent pimp, and shortly after than she moved in with him, to his ¾ of a million dollar home. Then they got engaged.
There are several terms that are used for what happened to Jessie when she was left in Las Vegas with, but Professor Benjamin Perrin’s description of LOVE BOMBING in his book INVISIBLE CHAINS: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking explains it best, and I hope he does not mind me quoting him below:
A barrage of "love bombing" by recruiters . . .
- Poverty, the desire for love, and the desire for money, in that order, are the three key vulnerabilities that permit domestic sex traffickers to recruit and control victims, according to those familiar with the techniques. Applied with practised care, the routine proves enormously successful in coercing vulnerable underage girls and women into a life of sexual exploitation.
- When traffickers encounter victims seeking love and attention, they commonly begin relationships by becoming "boyfriends" to their victims. This "falling in love" stage takes place over approximately two weeks. The girls are told they're beautiful, and they're taken to fancy restaurants and given lavish gifts. By showering a targeted girl with affection and fulfilling her material desires, the trafficker builds allegiance, eventually allowing him to manipulate her. Street gangs refer to these recruiting tactics as "love bombing." The greatest value of the targeted female on the flesh market and the more sophisticated the trafficker, the longer he can take in "grooming" her.
I knew that I wanted to talk about this conversation when I did my presentations the next day.
That night I had a good sleep, but Crystal got called back into work at 10:00pm, because the kitchen was flooding (again). The plumber had been there all day, he actually left when I was there. I am not sure what was wrong, but the problem happened again that night. She did not leave work until about 2:00am, so she did not get as much sleep as I did!
One of Crystal’s very best friends, Vanessa, moved to Calgary a couple of months ago, and she offered to come and get us in the morning and drive us to the school. I was very grateful, because it was much cheaper than a taxi all the way across the city.
When we got to Henry Wise Wood Secondary School, the teacher who arranged my presentation asked me if I would be willing to do an extra one at the end of the day – and of course I said yes. So I had a presentation in the morning, early afternoon and late afternoon. They were an hour and 20 minutes each. The first assembly had 200 students present; the second one had 250; and the third one, put together at the last minute had less than 50. But that was 500 students and their teachers in a school of 1,400. Over 1/3 of the entire school learned about Jessie Foster and got (in most cases) their first human trafficking education.
Crystal and Vanessa sat to my right and Crystal played my videos for me. And I had several of them. Mark from Crime Stoppers gave me his Fields of Mudan and there are a few others made by Crime Stoppers and the RCMP, and including the one I made and the clip from Young, Beautiful & Vanished, I had a lot of video and then I spoke before, between and after each one. It was awesome.
The reporter/cameraman from ACCESS TV’s (now affiliated with CTV) Alberta Primetime, Danny Baldassarre – who started his mini-doc of Jessie back in October of last year in Edmonton when I was there for Benjamin Perrin’s book release and a fundraiser for MLAP, also met us at the school. He wanted to include a clip of me doing a presentation in his work, and he also interviewed a few of the students – then he came to Crystal’s to interview her and finish up with me. This will be airing on March 28th or 29th – I will let you all know when I know for sure.
At the end of each of my presentations, Crystal came up to the podium and asked the audience if any of them had heard of Jessie’s case prior to the presentation. Altogether, in all 3 groups – there were about 50 or 60 who had. And that is awesome, considering they were all in elementary school when Jessie disappeared.
The teacher came up to me and told me that the teachers were so pleased with my presentation, that they are talking to the other teachers in the school and they are going to talk to the principal about bringing me back in two months to present again. I told him I would love to!
The teachers and students could not believe that theirs was the only school who took advantage of my offer to do my presentation for them AT NOT CHARGE TO THEM. They will be talking to other teachers and students in other schools. And to everyone they know. My presentation had a huge effect of many of the students and they want, very much, for others to see it.
There were many students who were upset to the point of tears, but I tried to talk to them – and as it is called “de-brief them” afterwards. I think it all helped.
There were some of the students who talked to me about wanting to do something. They wants to know how to volunteer and how to help combat human trafficking. It was wonderful.
I am also inviting other sources of media, not just local – but everywhere, to contact me about doing a story on Jessie’s 5th year missing. FIVE YEARS . . . HALF A DECADE. If you think it sounds like a long time – it is, especially when you live it every minute of every day of it.
Thank you all for always being here for me and ESPECIALLY FOR JESSIE – you have no idea how much it all means to us. Without you, without your support, I absolutely believe that I would not be able to carry on as I do and I know FOR SURE, if I was on my own throughout this, I would never be able to do what I do to try to help others from ever finding themselves in the same situation Jessie and our family is in. It is a horrific life . . . for Jessie, and for us. But we do all we can to carry on, FOR JESSIE.
Sincerely, Jessie’s mommy, Glendene.