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2004 (Narrative date)

Sonya was trafficked from Ukraine into sex slavery in Britain in 2002, and enslaved for over two years. She was freed in 2004 by police and narrated her story the same year. Sonya’s name has been changed to protect her identity. 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.

They took me to a nice house and treated me well. In the first week they gave me a tour of London. I was very happy. After a week I asked when I could start my studying. They said: “You didn’t come here for studying. We spent a lot of money on your travel to UK.” They said I have to work and give them the money back. They said I have to do prostitution. I was crying, I said, I can’t do that. I said I can do any other job to pay the money back. They were beating me and treating me very bad. The next day they took me to a flat, to work there. An Englishwoman provided me with clothes, shoes, cosmetics.

The first client attended the place. I was told to go with him. I worked all day, maybe 12 hours. In the evening, someone came to collect me from the flat. She gave me an envelope with money and a list of clients and the services I gave. After that they took me to another flat. There were many girls from different countries, all Eastern European. We were sleeping on the floor, covered with coats. I was working seven days a week. Every day a different place. Sometimes there were two or three girls, sometimes eight or ten. We were not allowed to speak to each other. Some clients were English, some were Asian.

I was thinking I was in London but one time a client asked me how I liked a different city. I thought, am I in this place? I was forced to pretend I’m fine and like the job, otherwise I’d be beaten. I couldn’t keep my money, not even tips, which were paid to me by clients. I was searched after every job. I was beaten on many occasions, very badly, kicked and punched.

They were saying I’m illegal and they could kill me because I didn’t exist here. They said if the police checked me they would put me in prison for two years. They said I have to pay the money back. They said I’m their property, I will be with them for the rest of my life—I’m not human, just something that can be bought. I was going crazy thinking my father wanted this.

I think I’ve lost my country and I can’t go back. It’s still affecting my life but I’m trying to make it work.

Narrative as told to Joan Smith.