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Ying

2014 (Narrative date)

Ying was forced into prostitution after she was trafficked to France, and then to the UK. She was able to escape and was helped by Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), a support service in Scotland for trafficking survivors. 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 Ying and I am 32 years old. I was born in China but I live in Glasgow now. 

My life has been full of bad luck and struggles since I was a child.

My father died when I was 10.  My mother was forced by my Uncle to marry again. My step father was not a good man but life is very hard for women in China so we stayed.

My mum became very sick and she had to live with my Auntie in the city so she could go to hospital.  While my mum was away from home I was raped by my step father. I was 13 years old. 

When I was about 15 I was sent to live with my Auntie. My Uncle found out and asked my Auntie to take me to his house as he wanted to talk to me. Soon I found out that he arranged for me to marry. The man was much older than me. I refused but the wedding was held against my will. He raped me that night.

My husband realised that I was not a virgin and complained to my Uncle. My Uncle beat me with a stick. I have nightmares about what he did to me.  My husband would beat me every day and force me to do all the house work. He treated me like I was nothing. One day he beat me up, pulled me onto the ground and dragged me around the courtyard. He cut my face with a knife. I thought I was going to die so I ran away and went back to my Auntie.

During this time my Mother passed away. I think she could not cope with what was happening to me. I could not go to her funeral as I was scared of my Uncle.  I miss my Mum. 

My Aunt organised for me to travel to Beijing to get away from my Uncle. I lived there for 10 years with my Aunt’s friend. Her name is Huan. This was a better time for me and I had the chance to go to school.

In 2007 Huan’s sister came to visit. Her name is Mei. She offered to take me to France to have a chance of a better life. I was happy to go. I travelled to France with Mei. She paid for everything and arranged travel papers for me. I was scared to leave Huan but excited to go to France.

When we got to France I began to ask Mei when I would get a job. Mei told me that my Aunt owed her a lot of money and that the only way for Huan to pay her back was for me to become a prostitute. At the beginning I refused but she slapped me, threatened to kill Huan and to throw me out of the house,  Mei told me I would go to jail if I told anyone.  I was forced to have sex with men in her house. I was expected to do anything the men asked me to do.  Sometimes I would have to see 5-6 men each day.  No one ever gave me money.

One day I was very sad and one of Mei’s friends asked me what was wrong.  I trusted him because he seemed to like me. He helped me escape. He arranged travel papers for me and helped me to run away. I was so happy to escape from Mei’s house that I didn’t ask him any questions.

On the day I left France he put me in a car with two other girls and a driver. I heard the man and him and the driver talking about how good sex with Chinese women is because they do as they are told and they accept everything.

I was very worried when I heard them talking like that but there was nothing I could do.

When we got off the boat and went through immigration no one spoke to me or the other girls. The driver did all the talking and presented all of our documents to the Immigration Officers.

The driver took me to a woman’s house and dropped me off.  It turned out to be a brothel. He gave the Madam my French ID.  I don’t know where he took the other girls. There were many different girls in that place but I wasn’t allowed to talk to them.

The Madam told me that I had to pay back what she had paid for me. She told me I would do this by having sex with men for money. She said that when this debt was paid I would be able to keep some money for myself. She told me that if I refused that she would tell the police who would put me in prison and then send me home to my Uncle.  I don’t know how she knew about him.

The only time I was allowed out was to buy clothes or have my hair done but I was always accompanied by another girl. I was always scared that the police would catch me as I didn’t have any papers and I was ashamed that I was a prostitute.

I was kept there for a few more months but I never seemed to manage to pay off the debt. One day the madam said that she was sending me to Glasgow to help one of her friends care for her children. I was happy because I thought that I would not have to have sex with men any more. She gave me my ID but told to me give it to her friend so she could keep it safe. I hid it instead and pretended I had lost it. I was put on the bus and her friend was waiting for me at the bus station in Glasgow. The friend turned out to be a madam too and, again, I was forced to have sex with men.

Sometimes the men gave me tips which I saved so I could buy a bus ticket to France. This took me a long time. I began to be allowed out to the shops and one day I ran away and managed to find the Scottish Refugee Council who referred me to TARA.

I was very upset speaking to them at first because I had to explain what had happened to me. I find it very difficult to talk about my past experiences but my worker has helped.  She listens to me and believes me. I talk with her and this makes me feel better because I know she doesn’t judge me.  I haven’t trusted anyone to do this for a long time. I feel safer now.

They helped me to find a solicitor to help me claim asylum and talk to me about the National Referral Mechanism. TARA also helped me to speak to the Police. I was so relieved that TARA, my solicitor and the Police believed me and that I wasn’t in any trouble.

I still find it very hard to concentrate and my memory is not good but I am going to college and trying to learn English. It is very hard to focus on studying when I have all these bad memories in my head. I am happy that I can study and my worker encourages me to go out, meet with new people and make some friends. I managed to make a friend in college.

My worker helped me to meet with a lady Psychologist and now I am trying to make sense of what happened to me and deal with my past. I see them both every week.  They keep on reassuring me that I am not on my own that I have support around me and this is so important for me I still have nightmares nearly every night and migraines but I no longer have thoughts to kill myself. My sleep is not good because of the nightmares and I keep on thinking about the abuse I suffered. I pray a lot.

I consider myself lucky to have come to Scotland and to have support. Although it is still hard for me and I am terrified of what will happen to me in the future I have hope that my life will become better.

Narrative as told to the Salvation Army and TARA