OTTAWA -- In the deathly stillness of night, Paul (not his real name) can hear his daughter toss and turn in bed, still wracked with nightmares of when she says she was forced into a teen prostitution ring.
His daughter Josie, 18, (not her real name) once a bubbly, energetic teen with a bright future, is now a shell of her former self.
She stays locked in her room most days, hasn’t kept in touch with many of her old friends and refuses to talk about that horrific night four months ago.
She’s one of the five underage girls between the ages of 12 and 17 police say were recruited under duress into prostitution by a group of three teenaged pimps -- a case police say they’ve never seen anywhere else in Canada.
Josie still fears for her life, often unable to muster the courage to go to school.
Her parents now wait on the agonizingly slow wheels of justice to mete out the vengeance they say the teens deserve. The charges against the teens have not been proven in court.
Josie’s plight began innocently enough. She was 17 years old at the time, and looking for a job.
At the St-Laurent Shopping Centre, she ran into some acquaintances who recognized her from Facebook.
Friends of friends, they seemed trustworthy enough.
They told her they were having a party and she should come along.
“They essentially kidnapped her and later entrapped her,” Paul said.
The girls took away her glasses, and, legally blind without them, she was powerless to resist.
“Then she was at their disposal,” Paul said. “They threatened her life, threatened her family if she didn’t do as they said.”
They planned to sell her like a whore, and they dressed her for the part, Paul says.
According to Paul, the girls slapped makeup on her face, outfitted her in a miniskirt and dropped her unceremoniously on the doorstep of a john.
The pimps waited at the road as Josie was forced to knock on the door of a man who thought he was calling a regular escort service.
But as soon as she set foot in the house, she pleaded with the man not to go through with it, insisting she was just 17.
The john got frightened, gave her some proper clothes to wear and begged her not to call the police.
“She got the hell out of there,” Paul said. “This could have gone bad really fast. He could have just as easily killed her.”
The john cursed the underage pimps until they fled, but never called the police, Paul said.
Josie kept running until she got to a building where she a friend lived. But when he wasn’t there, she knocked on every apartment door until someone would finally believe her story and let her in.
Paul and his wife had been left worried sick at home. They’d been gone for the day, and when they got home around 10 p.m., Josie hadn’t called.
“We waited and we waited but she never called,” Paul said.
Josie called them around 8 a.m. the next morning.
“Come pick me up, something bad has happened,” was all she could manage.
Police were dumbfounded. They call the case “shocking” and “unique in Canada.”
Paul calls it the most traumatic day of his life.
This week his family was told one of the 15-year-old pimps is out on $2,000 bail, and while she can’t use the Internet or contact certain people, she’ll be able to attend an alternative school.
But Paul is terrified the teen will hurt someone else.
“You know it’s just a matter of time that these girls will be back in trouble, because they had no punishment for their actions,” he said.
Investigators told him last week the youngest victim, a 12-year-old girl, had been repeatedly punched in the face, beaten into submission until she bent to their will.
“These girls have ruined five people’s lives, and the justice system is just going to give them a slap on the wrist,” he said.
He wants the teens tried as adults because of the seriousness of the charges.
“If all the parents made a united front to expose the identities of these brutal teens, that would be more punishment than the courts could ever give,” Paul said.