At a young age, Deborah Kinisky says she was sexually assaulted more than a dozen times.
Her early life was filled with pimps, drugs, clubs, and abuse.
Now, more than 40 years later, she is sharing her story in hopes of bringing awareness to human trafficking.
“There was physical, sexual, emotional, and all of the abuses that you can imagine,” Kinisky told CBC News.
The only thing that was good on me was what I had between my legs– Deborah Kinisky, human trafficking survivor
Growing up in Edmonton, Kinisky had exploitative photos taken of her, pushing her into the world of sex trafficking.
“I was unlovable. I didn’t have worth. The only thing that was good on me was what I had between my legs.”
A camera soon became the thing she feared most.
“I think that I was actually groomed at a very young age [to go into] child porn and be groomed in the world of human trafficking,” Kinisky said.
“It happens to people every day, regular people like me. Eleven years ago if you had asked me where I would have been, I’d probably have said I’d be dead.”
‘Never knew love like this existed‘
Eleven years ago, Kinisky was going to sell herself to a man so she could use the money to buy her kids food and Christmas presents.
But that day, she had had enough. She said no to the date and money.
She started making changes to her life. She enrolled in school, found a partner and raised a family.
“I healed myself 11 years ago,” she said. “I never knew love like this existed.”
Kinisky also embraced photography. As a professional photographer, she now uses the thing she once feared the most, a camera.
Supports for victims
Due to the underground nature of human trafficking, some organizations said it can be hard to know how many people are involved with human trafficking in Alberta.
Kirsty Hagan, a family support manager with Edmonton’s WIN House, works with many of the victims of human trafficking.
Basic shelter, food, and hygiene products are provided to victims through WIN House but Hagan said there’s only so much they can do. She said more resources are needed.
“I do believe that we need more supports. For one thing, we’re quite a small space,” Hagan said.
She also wants the public to look out for signs of human trafficking.
She wants community members who see something that looks wrong on the streets or someone who might be in distress, to speak up and say something to someone who can help.
Kinisky and Hagan want people to realize there isn’t just one face of human trafficking.
“People have an idea in their minds of what child pornography and human sex trafficking looks like and it’s not this face. This is not what they see when they think of those words. But, I’m here to tell you, this is the face,” Kinisky said.
Kinisky will be sharing her experience on Sunday at an event called Unmasking the Truth.
Proceeds will go to WIN House.