There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery in 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.
Tina is from India but travelled to the UK where she was forced to marry a man she did not know. She was abused by both him and his family. She became pregnant and worried for her child. She escaped from her abusers and was referred to Black Country Women's Aid who supported her in their refuge. There she lived alongside other women and children who had escaped abuse.
I am trying to explain, but I have no words to tell you everything.
Life means struggling, struggling. When I was unmarried, I didn’t think about anything. I was free. After marriage I faced difficulties, husband, in-laws would punish me. Life is very hard.
When I left my home I didn’t know where to go. I faced too many things, I was pregnant, alone in hospital. I had empty hands, I had nothing. Things were very difficult for me. When you have nothing you feel that you are empty, that you are nothing.
I am happy in the refuge. We have freedoms here. We look after our kids freely. When I was in my in-laws family, it was like prison. It gave me a lot of problems.
All you people are caring and loving with us. We are all happy, like a family. We try to help each other, we help with food. Leena (another resident) helped me when I came, she gave me milk from her own baby, she gave me wipes. Now the new lady, I say to her if you need anything, milk or nappies, I will give you. People helped me when I had nothing so I want to help other people.
We are all proud of our support worker. She does things very quick, she is very gorgeous. Sometimes when I’m fed up I talk to her about my past and my future. She says forget about the past, now you have a future, think about your house and your kids. She made me brave.
Yesterday I was talking to my support worker, it’s time to move. I will miss the refuge. But it’s good because the next person can come. I need to get in my new home, my future.
When I see back, I was very alone. Now I see my futures, making plans for my house, for my kids, for myself. We come with empty hands, now we are full. This makes us cry. We are happy, that’s why we cry.
Narrative provided by Black Country Women’s Aid