There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery un the United Kingdom (Global Slavery Index 2018). According to the 2017 annual figures provided by the National Crime Agency, 5, 145 potential victims of modern slavery were referred through the National Referral Mechanism in 2017, of whom 2,454 were female, 2688 were male and 3 were transgender, with 41% of all referrals being children at the time of exploitation. People are subjected to slavery in the UK in the form of domestic servitude, labour exploitation, organ harvesting and sexual exploitation, with the largest number of potential victims originating from Albania, China, Vietnam and Nigeria. This data however does not consider the unknown numbers of victims that are not reported.
Maya was just 12 years old when she was forced into the world of commercial sexual exploitation. Despite going to school, having foster parents and social workers, nobody in her life recognised the signs of her exploitation. Maya was finally rescued when a policeman refused to dismiss the signs and looked further in to her situation. Maya’s narrative demonstrates the importance of continued support for survivor’s of slavery.
I am fortunate enough to say that I am a survivor and no longer a victim to modern slavery, however from the age of 12- 19 I was a slave to sex trafficking.
Through this crime everything was taken from me, my control, my dignity, my future, my voice. I became hidden, from the years of 2005- 2013 I was a statistic, a number within the figure of “potential victims of trafficking within the UK”.
Nobody should ever become a victim of trafficking, I should never have been trafficked for that many years undetected. I was not only a child but I was a child in a school. A child with a GP, a child with foster parents and social workers, all which failed throughout 7 years to identify that I was being tricked, controlled, tortured and sold everyday.
I spent years accepting that what my life had become couldn’t and wouldn’t ever change. It was impossible for me to speak out and nobody around me took any notice of the signs right in front of them.
However, I was extremely lucky to have been rescued 4 years ago, and all it took was one individual police officer not to dismiss the signs and to look further than what you see on the surface. I then spent the standard 45 days in a safe house. Although I am extremely grateful to have been in a safe house, 45 days isn’t enough time to establish the needs in each individual case let alone recover from them.
Long term support is crucial for any survivor’s recovery, without it you may as well not have been rescued at all. I spent the first 2 years of my recovery moving to 4 different places, all which claimed to support survivors of trafficking. Unfortunately they did not have the knowledge and training so there was no recovery. Those 2 years were unbearable and as a result my mental health and physical health suffered hugely.
In July 2015 I hit the jackpot! The Snowdrop Project. The first charity to provide adequate and trained long term support. Having a support worker, counsellor and supportive community has changed my life drastically.
Being a victim of trafficking leaves its mark mentally and physically, 4 years on and I am still dealing with the effects of this crime but I have not had to do it alone.
I found trusting anybody a challenge but Snowdrop never gave up. No matter what I was facing, feeling or doing they always stuck by my side and helped empower me to make the best decisions for myself. I cannot begin to tell you the impact and difference long term support has, but I can guarantee you that if I hadn’t had Snowdrop, I would not be here today.
Each survivor should be as lucky as me to have long term support. The effects and obstacles that you are faced with when rescued should never be faced alone.
It is also vitally important when working with vulnerable people who have been through such a high level of trauma that you have the right training or knowledge. From my own experiences I found the places I lived that didn’t have it were more detrimental to my long term recovery compared to Snowdrop where because of their knowledge and training I have been able to grow in independence, confidence and strength with the ability to now make choices for the future I have back.
Although I have been lucky enough to be rescued and to then have long term support, I shouldn’t have had to be because I shouldn’t have been a slave. I shouldn’t have been forgotten and hidden. I along with every other woman, man and child that have been at the hands of the disgraceful crime should have been seen and should have been heard.
I count it an honour to use my experiences and my voice to speak out on behalf of those who don’t have a voice to help make the necessary changes to survivor care and the movement to eradicate Modern Slavery.
Courtesy of Free For Good