Jenny spent her adolescence being abused and blackmailed by a man she trusted – but her life got even worse when she was preyed on by a vicious UK sex trafficking ring. Battered and bruised, in 2013 she hit an all-time low, eventually seeking the help of our Anti-Human Trafficking Unit. Now, at 23 years old, she is finally free and bravely has agreed to anonymously share her harrowing story.
She spent most of her teenage years being groomed by her elderly neighbour and registered sex offender ‘Keith’. At 17, Keith moved away and she was pawned off to a gang of men, who illegally traded her as a sex slave. Although she was never paid - except in phone credit, cigarettes, or drugs - the gang made a lot of money out of her services, while she endured unimaginable horror, and was thrown out of the family home.
After numerous hospital visits to treat her horrific injuries and suffering a miscarriage, Jenny tried to seek help, explaining: “My feelings of utter desolation grew. I tried to escape, but had nowhere to go, no money. Every exit was blocked. Even if I stepped just a few yards on my own, I was followed. When I ran away to domestic abuse refuges, I couldn’t stay long because I didn’t fit their remit of a domestic abuse victim, they classed me as a sex worker.“
The turning point came when police picked Jenny up after she was doused with petrol, thrown out of a car and nearly set on fire by the gang. Identified as a victim of trafficking, she was then advised by Victim Support to call our 24-hour confidential Referral Helpline. Two volunteers arrived to drive her hundreds of miles away to a safe house. Other trafficked women lived there too, some from Britain, some from abroad, all with their own shocking stories.
She recalled: “At first, I was too scared to believe my nightmare could be over. It helped that the volunteers took my phone, releasing me from the constant threats and that I was far away from home, so I stopped worrying that every car I saw was prowling for me. But the relief was hard to process. I was finally in a safe house, with a clean bed, warm shower and someone to make me a cup of tea without asking for payment in sexual favours.”
Over the following months, our Anti-Human Trafficking Unit helped piece her back together, breaking her addiction to diazepam, and giving her the medical attention she needed, as well as counselling and support applying for benefits.
At 23 years old Jenny is now free and hopes to study at university so she can teach people how to spot and stop grooming. “The thought that I might be able to prevent even one case drives me. But first, I’m learning how to live normally. One of the biggest challenges has been believing that I deserve a happy future: 18 months on from my escape, it’s slowly getting easier. I now wake up feeling free – and I appreciate that more than anyone can imagine.”
As told to Julie McCaffrey, Glamour Magazine
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