There are an estimated 145,000 people liing in conditions of modern slavery in Italy (GSI 2018). Italy is a destination, transit, and source country for women, children, and men subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Victims originate from Nigeria, Romania, Morocco, China, and other countries. Female victims are often subjected to sex trafficking in Italy after accepting promises of employment as dancers, singers, models, restaurant servers, or caregivers. Romanian and Albanian criminal groups force Eastern European women and girls into commercial sex.
V was thirteen years old when she was trafficked to Italy by a boy she believed loved her and who had asked her to marry him. Upon arrival in Italy, V was locked in a hotel room, raped, beaten and forced into prostitution. After three weeks of exploitation, V was arrested and deported back to Albania.
My name is V, and I am fifteen years old. I have a mother, a stepfather, a younger sister, and two younger step-brothers. I come from a small village in southern Albania.
My real father died when I was four, and my mother married my stepfather a year later. My stepfather works only occasionally. He is an alcoholic and beats my mother, me, and the other children when he gets drunk.
When I was thirteen, one of my friend’s brothers introduced me to his cousin, a twenty-one year old boy named B. who was from another village. B. and I started spending time together, and he told me he loved me. He took me to restaurants for dinner, and one day he bought me a necklace with a heart on it. I still have it.
A few weeks later, B. brought me flowers and proposed to me. It was the happiest day of my life. When I told him I wanted to tell my parents, he said that there was no need for making known this relationship we have. He said that he wanted to leave to go to Italy the next day. He said that he had relatives there who could get him a good job and that I wouldn’t have to work. He told me about how beautiful our life would be together there.
He got illegal documents, and I left with him the next day. He told me to tell my mother that I was going to the house of a friend, so I did. We arrived in Italy that night, and that night my life changed forever. He locked me in a hotel room and told me I couldn’t leave; I never saw him again. I was alone in the room for three hours and didn’t know what to do. At around 2:30 am three men came in and began beating me. They all raped me. The main one, called L., told me that B. had “sold” me and that now I belonged to him. I had to do what he said, or he would kill me. This treatment lasted for about a week. I was only given food once a day. When he told me at first that I would have to become a prostitute, I resisted, but he continued this treatment.
I was then “sold” to another trafficker who treated me even worse. Once he beat me so hard that I could not see out of one eye for two days. He told me that he paid money for me and that I would have to work to pay him back. His name was A. and he told me that if I would not do this thing that he knew where my family lived and would rape my sister and kill my mother. I was alone and scared. I didn’t care anymore about my life, but I was afraid for my family.
Another girl came to train me. I started to work in this way and sometimes couldn’t even believe that it was me to do such a thing. Sometimes I had to beg from my clients soap and toothpaste. I wanted to get out, but I knew that my trafficker controlled all the streets in this area. He even controlled the police.
After three weeks like this I was arrested and deported to Albania. It was only later that I discovered what had happened to me. B. was never the cousin of my friend’s brother. He lied to me and cheated me just like everyone else. He was my doom. Sometimes I curse myself and what has happened to me. When I think about what has happened to me I am sick. I tell my story to prevent this for others. Now I am trying to find a new path.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here