There are an estimated 145,000 people living 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.
L fell in love with an older man who convinced her to runaway to Italy with him. After a while of staying at his friend’s house, L’s boyfriend coerced her into prostitution. She escaped one day with the help of an Albanian client who took her back home.
My name is L., and I am from Elbasani. Four years ago I was in the 8th grade, and I had a very normal life, a calm girlhood, loving parents, and many friends. It happened that I was in love with somebody, a man who was 10 years older than me, and he taught me things I didn’t know before. Because I loved him very much, I accepted many things he said and did. He got engaged and married somebody else and had children, but I was still in love with him. I still met with him, and I didn’t pay any attention to anything my friends and parents said about it. This relationship lasted two years. I never doubted him because I loved him.
One day, he proposed that we escape and go together to Italy. He told me that he loved me and that our life together there would be perfect. We left the country together illegally. During our first days in Italy, we stayed at his friend’s house, and I was feeling good; I thought this was a dream come true. One day he told me, “We cannot live like this; we have to work. I cannot get a job, but you are so beautiful that you could make a lot of money for us. If you do this, nothing will change between us.”
I accepted his decision. First, I worked as a prostitute in a little house in our area, and I couldn’t believe that it was me doing such a thing. I remembered my parents and my friends, and when I prostituted, physically I was not there. I started getting sick with anorexia, and time after time my body was shivering. When I was with my boyfriend, I was totally his, and happy. Nothing mattered to me, except the fact that I was with my boyfriend.
Later, I began to repent. My love got destroyed, and with one of my Albanian clients I decided to come back to Albania. After two months I got in contact with somebody who knew where my family was and knew they were looking for me. My parents came where I was staying and took me home.
Looking back, it seems to me as if my past life was like a movie, not real. I am trying to forget everything. I feel poor in my heart when I tell my story, but I do it to say to myself that my ex-boyfriend was the curse of my life. And I would like to tell my friends that it is better to bury a powerful love rather than to be a victim.
Narrative courtesy of the Association for Albanian Girls and Women
The organisation’s True Stories of trafficking survivors can be found here