A young British woman who was trafficked and raped by gangs within the UK has described how she was ruthlessly exploited by multiple rapists and repeatedly failed by police.
Speaking to ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham the woman, whose identity will remain protected, said she did not understand she was a victim of trafficking - as she had thought it only happened to people from outside the UK.
She described being befriended by an older English man in his 70s when she was just 13, and groomed with presents and lifts to school.
After a while, she was introduced to a group of Pakistani men. She said:
She said the men introduced her to the prescription drug Diazepam on which she became heavily dependent. They also took sexual pictures and videos of her, and then used these as a blackmailing device to keep her trapped. She said she was attacked, gang raped, and exchanged between the men across different locations around the country.
She described being forced to have sex with different men in the back of these vans or in different houses, some of whom were much older - in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Some of the men, she said, could not speak English.
The woman, now in her 20s, said she was threatened, intimidated, beaten and repeatedly raped, and felt she had no way of escaping.
Cut off from her family and friends, she said she was unable to function and became heavily dependent on the alcohol and drugs her traffickers and abusers would ply her with.
The woman described how the men convinced her she was worthless, and many of the rapes were sadistically violent.
Escape was impossible, because she relied on the group to provide her with the drugs they got her hooked on, she said. The threat of the pictures was huge, and became more grave as the abuse worsened.
The victim said the police failed her several times - initially they did not believe her, saying the age difference and ethnicity did not "fit" with the crimes she was alleging. They said it was her "choice" to have contact, and said she was "street" enough to stick up for herself.
She said she worked with two police officers who she liked and trusted, but their bosses stopped her complaints from going further. She said the police criminalised her - trying to make out she was lying, and cared only about getting a conviction - something they did not think she could provide.
Eventually the Salvation Army helped her and offered her a place to stay - she had previously stayed in refuges to escape her attackers, but was forced to leave for various reasons as she did not "fit the criteria". She said the Salvation Army were the first group that offered her a safe place to stay, even though it was only for 45 days initially, and made her see that she was a victim of trafficking, and it was not her fault.
She said there are many many more like her who have been traded and trafficked for sex against their will, and that it was time the police and public knew what was happening, and stopped blaming girls and women like her for being "sex workers", when really they are very vulnerable victims having their lives wrecked by this modern-day slavery.