There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery un 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.
Anna was living in Albania when she ran away with her boyfriend to escape an arranged marriage. She travelled to Kosovo where she thought she would build a life with the man she loved. However, instead Anna was forced in to a room, locked up and was repeatedly raped by up to ten men a day. Anna was moved from place to place, never knowing where she was. She was finally able to escape while in England and was referred to Hestia.
Like all young girls in my home place I spent my time at school and hanging out with my sisters and friends. However it is the custom in my town in Albania to have an arranged marriage. Although I wanted to make my parents happy, I couldn’t go through with the wedding. Not only because he was a stranger but I already had a boyfriend and we were in love. Now it hurts to say his name. As the date approached we had no choice but to run away. I was scared but also elated. I packed a bag and we travelled to Kosovo where he had friends to stay with. However as soon as we arrived everything changed utterly. The man I loved, who made me feel safe and whom I trusted with my life, betrayed me. I was forced into a room and locked in.
Then the abuse began. They kept me locked up and I was repeatedly raped by up to ten men every day (including “him”). They were cruel and threatened to kill my family if I tried to escape. I’ve tried to forget a lot from those dark days but I know I was moved from place to place. I never knew where. It was only on the day I escaped that I discovered that I was in England. I still don’t know how I got away. I was referred to Hestia for support and housing.
For a long time I was terrified of everything and everyone. I couldn’t trust anybody. My advocate, Meena, was my lifesaver. She was with me every step of the way. With her encouragement I started to learn English. Twelve months later I reached Level 2 in English got a place at college to study Social Care. Meena also arranged for me to have counselling; this is difficult as I have never talked about myself before. I now know that I suffer from panic attacks, anxiety and depression and even now there are days where I almost give up. I miss my family and hate what has happened to me. Other days are better and I feel that maybe I’ll really get through this.
Courtesy of Hestia