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Sophie Hayes

2018 (Narrative date)

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. 

Sophie Hayes was deceived by a man who said he loved her. She was forced to work on the streets of Italy, was beaten up, force-fed and turned into a ‘product’Sophie is a survivor determined to turn her horrendous experiences into positive ones and doing everything in her power to make a difference and empower survivors of trafficking to build hope-filled futures. 

He broke my shoulder blade. I had to just let that heal by itself, carry on. Going to work every single night to, to have clients sometimes 25 people in one night, with pneumonia, a broken shoulder blade, no food no drink. I mean it’s just, it’s unimaginable to think this actually happens every single day. And it happens all over the world. 

Rehabilitation is, is a journey for everybody. But what I’ve definitely learned is that you absolutely cannot do this alone. You need organisations who can understand the issue and who want to help and provide that support and a safe place. It’s a combination of survivors, a combination of authorities, of NGOs, of all different organisations really joining together and having a collaborative approach. 

Having Pope Francis speak about this issue is incredible. A figure and a leader such as him to really shine a spotlight on the issue of human trafficking is exceptional.  


Courtesy of Santa Marta Group