Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, Europe remains a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source region for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most widespread for of modern slavery with an 84% of victims trafficked for this purpose. The majority of those trafficked for this purpose are women and young girls who often originate from Eastern Europe within the EU as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority of people being trafficked from Nigeria to various parts of Europe including Italy, France, Spain and the UK through an array of complex trafficking networks.
Diane was in her teens when she was forced in to prostitution, first in London and then being trafficked through a prostitution ring to another country. Subjected to physical abuse daily Diane tried to escape and fly back home to the UK, however upon arrival she was met by a trafficker. Diane tells of the physical and mental effects of trafficking, the healing she has gone through and the importance of organisations who support and educate on human trafficking.
My name is Diane I'm survivor of exploitation through prostitution and trafficking, a very long time ago for me it was about 30 years ago, I'm 50 now. I was in my late teens so I've had a lot of, a lot of healing a lot of love, good family, my faith, and I've had the privilege of working in this area with other women so. But still it's amazing, you know there is still residual stuff. I've worked closely with the MET for many years and some of the best work that I've done that's had, you know the greatest impact for victims has been working with the MET and that's been some of the best partnership work I've been involved in so, it's just fantastic to see this kind of multiagency response. Today you know I have been asked to share from some personal experience which I will do, and I'm just so excited to hear about the aims of the Santa Marta group and just, I want to support all of you anyway I can.
It's got the key elements to make a massive impact globally and central to this is this partnership working in placing victims at the centre so that that healing process can start from the very first contact. And as well as being a voice you can also ensure that the voices of victims and survivors are listened to and directly affect policy and practice. Love and care has no borders or boundaries and the work that you are collectively involved in, and all of the initiatives that are going to come out of that work are doing the opposite of what the trafficker have done. The work that you will be doing there will be transparency there'll be care, there'll be dignity, there'll be hope be safety and choice with no strings attached.
My experience of prostitution began over 30 years ago and included the supposed it higher standard prostitution, whatever that means, in London, and then being trafficked from this country to prostitution ring in another country. Basically, you know, ended up way out of my depth, surrounded by older people who realised they could make a lot of money out of me.
It’s not just madams taking a cut, but people pretending to be my friends who kind of recognized vulnerability and chose instead to cultivate controlling relationships with me and, as all of you will know control doesn't have happen overnight. Grooming, it's a process. I went from being a happy confident trusting girl to finding myself standing in the penthouse, actually in Mayfair, we're not that far away are we? Being looked over by a madam, and it was like watching it in slow motion happening to someone else. I just didn't have the capacity to know how to extricate myself out of that situation.
When the people buying you are famous, in government, civil servants, members of other countries' governments or have diplomatic immunity, you don't have any confidence that you would be believed or protected if you reported violence or rape And, to be honest in those days I don't think anyone would have even made a connection that a prostitute could be raped, you know it was the early 80s not that far from the 70s, things were very different. As I said, this was supposed to the top level of prostitution, but it's the same whether you're wearing Prada or Primark, bruises still feel the same. The grand wallpaper and a mini bar doesn't dilute what it feels like when someone has a gun and asks if you want to see your mum again. Being in a penthouse suite does not soften the blow of rape or of having someone leave bite marks all over your face.
I never wanted to be involved in this in the first place, I was brought up on Disney I thought you grow up, you fall in love, some guy rocks up on a horse, I mean I'm a bit feminist now so I'm kind of, I'm not in that Disney, although you know that might be nice, rock up on the horse. So you know I just I just thought that was kind of how life was and so this was very horrific. I was always scanning people's faces. I was always on the lookout for help. I was very isolated and controlled and I was always looking to see that people might see behind the facade of what was presented. But nobody wanted to see, nobody wanted to ask those questions. Because what would that then say about them? They would have to be confronted with the reality of what they were involved in, instead of the fantasy that many people are you know are determined to uphold because there's just too much money being made in prostitution. Erm I ended up being sent overseas as part of an organised prostitution ring that was sanctioned by the authorities. I got on that plane, nobody put a gun to my head. I have had a gun to my head but not in that situation.
The chains of control are invisible but they are very much there. You know when you're in that situation they don't, doesn't need to be physical chains or you know, the threats about your family, it's enough. After a month in the country I'd been sent to I managed to get away and get myself to the airport where I was hidden and helped to get out of the country by a security guard who knew what was happening. He said people would be looking for you, I'll hide you in my office and I'll help you get on a flight. And I remember getting to the other end, I cried all the way and they all thought it was scared of flying but I was just so, I was just so relieved to be in the air. And I remember getting to the end and er you know, someone said to me do you have anything to declare and I just wanted to say I want my mom.
Unfortunately I was met at the other end so it went on for a while longer. By the end of our start having panic attacks and I actually lost the ability to speak, which of anyone that knows me you won't even believe that, you might even wished it continued a bit longer. Erm I had to write notes to communicate and eventually I finally got home to Scotland.
In terms of how it affects now, it probably affects me and I probably don't know all the answers to that, and as I said I've been very fortunate. I've had a lot of healing and care in my life. But every now and again something can trigger something. erm and it's, I can only describe it as kind of residual awareness of the physical strength of men that I can sometimes find frightening. Not being scared of men, I think it just taps into kind of a body memory of being pinned down and knowing that I can't do anything.
If that happens I'm not strong enough. So at the time it was the early 80s there was no really understanding about the exploitative nature of prostitution and trafficking, and I was in many ways invisible. But not completely, because as you know with prostitution it can't be completely invisible because people that want to pay to buy people have to make that connection too.
I had two interactions with police and one with the airport security in the country I was sent to during that time. And I do remember the interaction of the police at the time they wanted to say something to me, I wanted them to say something to me, but they just didn't know how to kind of take it further, and actually with the would have been nowhere to send me in those days.
And that's why it's so exciting to hear about the initiatives that are going on now.
Some people who need to be educated by us here today say, oh there's no trafficking, it's all migrant workers, prostitution is empowering, and you're involved in the what they call the rescue industry and they use that as an insult. And let me tell you there's a place for rescue you know. As a one time event if I'm in a house and it's on fire I'm not sitting there thinking, hang on Mr. fireman do I want to be perceived as a victim, no I want to get out of there want you to breakdown the door and I want you to come and get me, and rescue is certainly a word. You know I used to pray in the strangest of places and say to God isn't this awful you know and please rescue me get me out of this and eventually I did.
My personal experiences took place in rooms where men used their physical strength and positions of power to abuse and a degrade and exploit. Erm and today I find myself in this room with all of you. People in positions of power, but the difference is that you are people who don't want to exploit that power that you've been entrusted with. You are people who want to harness your collective power for good to reach out and help those exploited. And to bring the perpetrators to justice. The people that exploit rely on the belief that no one is going to miss the people that they've got under their control, that they can keep their exploitation invisible and you're going to prove them wrong.
Because you're here today you're affirming the commitment made in April that commitment to working in partnership on the very important issues of modern slavery and human trafficking. Today at this minute, there are people in all our countries who, like I did, are wondering if help will ever come. Because you are here today and what will be sent in motion worldwide because of that, many of those people will be helped, will be safe and will be supported to rebuild their lives.
Of all the places you could be today thank you with all my heart that you here. The woman that I am today is very grateful for your commitment to this important work. And the girl that was in her late teens hoping to be seen, hoping for someone to ask the right questions and hoping for a way out receives a little bit more healing because of that thank you so much for listening.
As told to the Santa Marta Group at an international conference held at Lancaster House in London December 2014.