There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery in 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.
Melody was brought from Nigeria to the UK by a family friend at 12 years old. Upon arrival she was taken to a woman’s house where she was forced to clean every day for long hours under constant verbal abuse. This woman started bringing men to the house to sexually abuse Melody. Melody was kicked out of the house one day when she refused to sleep with one of the men the woman had brought to her. She spent months homeless on the street where she was subjected to further sexual violence. She was finally able to leave her situation with the help of an advisor from Refugee Council.
My name is melody I’m from Nigeria. I lost my parents at the age of ten. When I came to the UK I was at the age of 12. My granny asked me if I would like to travel. So, I thought I was travelling around my country, it turns out I came to England.
My mum’s friend took me to her friend’s place. The second I started doing all the cleaning and it turned out to be a habit that they had to be telling me to be cleaning up the house every day. And if the place is not sparkling clean, I end up being told to do it again.
She liked pulling my hair, she always said this word to me, useless. I was beaten loads of times. I wasn’t allowed to go out, so I was just stuck in the house.
The first time when a man came into the house, I went to open the door and I was being asked why not make a cup of tea for the guy. And then while I was in the kitchen cleaning up he came and touched me. Different men would come into the house and I was being getting raped and stuff, so I got chucked out because I refused to sleep with one of the men that came to the house.
And I was right at the front of the door, begging and asking can she please let me in because I ain’t got nowhere to go. Then she’s not letting be back in because I refused to do what she was asking me to do.
And I stayed in the streets for eight to nine months. I had to begging for food, slept on buses, slept in cemeteries, slept in the phone booths. I stayed in the street and so three guys pushed me, stopped me and next thing I was being pulled and dragged by one of the guys and raped again.
At first, I went to a lot of different agencies to see if they could help me but none of them seemed to be bothered or had much interest to help me out. Until a key worker actually tried to find a way I could get my status to start working. And she spoke to her manager and my manager said that she should bring me down to Refugee Council in Bristol. And then I came down to the Refugee Council to see one of the advisors and she was really really great. She was there for me all the way through. It took a while for me to kind of build up that trust until I could see that she’s someone I could reply on, someone I could talk to. So, she’s been there like a friend, a mother, a sister. If it wasn’t her, I don’t know what I would do or where I would be by now. I trust her a lot, more than anyone else.
Narrative as told to Refugee Council. All credit given.