Jaroslava is a Slovakian woman who travelled to the UK on the false promise of a job in a sandwich factory but instead enslaved in prostitution in London. She managed to escape to Glasgow and was put in touch with the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), which has provided support to allow Jaroslava to establish a job and aspirations for the future. The majority of those trafficked to the UK have been identified victims of sexual exploitation, followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation.
My name is Jaroslava. I come from Slovakia, a rural area called Bohemia. I lived with my family and I am Roma. Our life there was very hard and it was difficult for me to find work to support my family. One day a very good friend told me that he could get me work in the UK. He told me that I would be able to earn enough money to send some home to my family. I thought that I would be working in a sandwich factory and that they would provide me with somewhere to stay. My friend told me that this would cost a small amount of money to arrange but that I could pay him back a little each month from my wages.
I knew that the work would be hard but I was excited that I was going to live in London and be able to send money home to support my family. I hoped that I would learn English and be able to get a better job as a waitress or working in a bar.
My friend bought me a ticket for the bus, gave me some money to buy food on the journey and told me that his friend Arnost would meet me at the station in London. Everyone on the bus was going to look for a better life in the UK or were going to visit relatives who were here. I had some cousins in Glasgow and was hoping to visit them when I could get time off even though I hadn’t seen them since I was a little girl.
It was dark when we got to London and I was very tired but Arnost was there to meet me and was very kind. We took a black London taxi to his flat where he told me to rest and that in the morning he would take me to the sandwich factory to start work. I was a bit worried about being alone in a flat with a strange man but as Arnost had been good I told myself I was being silly.
The next morning after breakfast Arnost’s friend came to collect us and drive us to the factory. We drove for a little while and stopped at a house. Arnost said he had to talk to someone but that I should come in too and have a coffee.
When we got into the house Arnost suddenly changed. He started to shout at me and said that I owed him money which he needed now. I explained that I didn’t have it and he told me I would have to become a prostitute to pay him back. I was shocked and confused. I told him that I wouldn’t do that, that I would cook and clean for him and pay him back as soon as I got my first wages from the factory but he laughed and called me stupid. He told me I was naive to think that I could get a job in the UK and surely I must have known that I was going to work in a brothel. I started to cry and became very scared. I was still saying that I wouldn’t do it when Arnost slapped me and raped me saying that this was what I deserved, that I’d better get used to it and that this is what he would do if I ever disobeyed him again.
When it was over Arnost left the house and a woman appeared and helped me. The other woman tried to comfort me and told me it would be ok, that it wasn’t so bad. I was too scared to say anything.
I was taken upstairs to a bedroom where I was told I would sleep. I heard them lock the door and then I slept. I woke up and was told that a man had paid to have sex with me and that I‘d better behave myself or Arnost would kill me. A young man came into the room. Although he saw my black eye and the bruises and although I cried he still had sex with me.
After that I learned to take myself away in my head, I learnt to smile at the men and to pretend that it was all ok – life was easier and less painful that way. Arnost would come to see me everyday and take the money that the men had paid – I never saw any. One day I made a mistake and asked Arnost if I had paid back the money I owed him. He hit me hard, laughed and walked out of the room. I used to have to see 5/6 men for sex everyday.
Two months after I arrived in London an old Slovak man had sex with me. He was as old as my grandfather and that made me cry. I told him what had happened but he said that it was none of his business. He must have felt guilty though because after he finished he gave me 30 pounds. It was the first money I had since arriving in London. Early the next morning when everyone was sleeping I left the house. Somehow I got to the bus station and got a bus to Glasgow. I called my cousins when I arrived and they told me what bus to get to their house.
I didn’t tell them what had happened to me in London as I was too ashamed. They had very little money and told me that they couldn’t afford to keep me that I would have to find some work. My Aunt took me to one side and said that if I was really desperate she knew some people who would pay me money for sex. I felt sick. I ran out of the house and into a busy street I got on the first bus I could see and ended up in the city centre. Someone told me that the local government could help me and took me to the Hamish Allen Centre. They gave me a place to stay for the night and the next morning I met a kind woman who I told a little of my story. She was obviously very worried about me and asked if I would like to meet a worker from a woman’s project who could help.
The TARA Service came out that afternoon to see me and when they explained who they were I started to cry. I told them about what had happened and they agreed to try to help me.
They found me somewhere safe to stay and I had someone visit me everyday. At weekends one of the workers would come out to see me, sometimes she would take me out other times we would go to the supermarket or go for a drive. They gave me money to buy food and a mobile telephone. They helped me see a doctor and when I found out I had hepatitis helped me understand what that meant. I wanted to stay in Scotland and work and they helped me find some work experience and I attended an ESOL class to learn English as a second language.
As I got to know the staff better I told them more about what had happened to me. They arranged for me to meet with the police in Glasgow so I could tell them what had happened. As I was very scared my TARA worker came with me and sat beside me when I told everything. They arranged for my statement to be shared with their colleagues in London where I was raped and exploited.
Eventually I just wanted to go home. I wanted to see my family. I was very scared and didn’t want my family to know that I’d been raped and forced to be a prostitute. The TARA arranged for me to go back to Slovakia and meet with an anti-trafficking organisation there.
I now have a job working in a children’s hospital and am continuing to learn English. I’m taking driving lessons too! Although it is still very hard when I remember or dream about what happened in London I feel hopeful for my future.
Narrative as told to TARA (the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance)