At least one child a day is trafficked into Britain according the to the Human Trafficking Foundation, with children forced to work in the sex industry, domestic service, cannabis cultivation or as criminal on the streets. Child victims of human trafficking primarily originate from Romania, Vietnam, Nigeria, and from within the UK itself. UK children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Children in the care system and unaccompanied migrant children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking.
Jenny was 13 when her 70-year-old neighbour Keith began giving her lifts to school and buying her gifts. After a while Keith began to demand Jenny repay him for her generosity, forcing her to have sex with him. As months passed Keith began inviting other men to the house and forcing Jenny to have sex with them to pay off his debts. At the age of 17 Jenny left home and found a place at a women’s refuge, it was the first of many attempts to get help and escape, but had developed an addiction to drugs. She kept going back as she felt that is all she was worth. One day the police put her in touch with Victim Support who referred Jenny to the Salvation Army who took her to a safe house.
I got to know Keith when I went to primary school, so I was in year 6. He had a dog so on the way to school you’d pet the dog. Erm he was always around just ‘good morning’, friendly face. It was just nice to have someone so interested.
Erm so he’d invite you for a drink inside the house. He’s put his hand on your knee, and it was uncomfortable but it was, yeah it sort of progressed from there.
I realised it was wrong when he started to say you now need to, I’ve done this for you, what are you going to do for me? I said I didn’t want to and he said oh it’ll only take a couple of seconds and I was special to him and if he was special to me and if I appreciated what he did, I would have sex.
I think from the first time that’s when he felt like he owned you or he’s made his mark on you.
I didn’t tell them because Keith had always said it was a secret. I didn’t tell them because I was ashamed. Because the background I come from, sex before marriage or sex itself is quite a hidden subject and shameful to speak about.
There'd be 2 or 3 and then Keith would say, erm you need to do me a favour erm, he owed them something and that I needed to do it. They’d offer you weed, they’d offer you drugs, they’d offer you alcohol, and they were a lot more forceful and violent. And they’d pass you around. The men would then bring their friends in and the network got bigger.
I was hooked on diazepam, erm so I kept going back. You can try and run away, but trafficking almost steals your identity. So you become what they need you to become and that’s all that you feel worth. So you go back because that’s the only thing that’s giving you purpose.
[The police put Jenny in touch with Victim Support]
She’d rang me and said erm I think the only place that I know of is the Salvation Army. So I rang the number and within 2 hours of that phone call, there was two volunteers with their Salvation Army badges on. I was taken to a safe house.
If it wasn’t for that phone call and it wasn’t for the Salvation Army I would’ve been dead by now.
They didn’t ask questions, they didn’t judge you. You just felt free, erm and safe.
Courtesy of The Lily Trust