British woman tells of sex trafficking horror in the UK

The sex-trafficking survivor. Credit: ITV News

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:

The older man asked me to do sexual favours in return for the stuff he bought me, and when the Asian men got involved, it just started off as me going for cruises in cars. They gave me cannabis and alcohol and asked for sexual favours. >

Anon survivor of trafficking

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.

If you declined, and didn't want to do it, they would be quite physical. They would beat you, and stab you with coat hanger, break bits of your face, and they would trick you - they would give you Diazepan - and then there would be four or five men in the van, and you obviously had to had no choice.

Anon survivor of trafficking

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.

They would not allow you out of the house until you finished ...doing them. And then there became one ring-leader of the gang who owed money for drugs to the rest of the gang, so I was helping him pay off debts.

Anon survivor of trafficking

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.

Sometimes I thought I was going to die - on one occasion they threw petrol over me and they threw me out of the van when it was going around a roundabout, so sometimes I thought I was going to die. And then other times, because you get cut off from friends and family you just think, that that is all you are worth.

Anon survivor of trafficking

The woman described how the men convinced her she was worthless, and many of the rapes were sadistically violent.

After a while you feel like you are not human anymore. You just feel like a machine that has to have sex with people.

Anon survivor of trafficking

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.

On occasions I rang the police myself, pretending to be someone else, just so the police would come and stop the violence.

Anon survivor of trafficking

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.

I never really thought of it as trafficking - as I thought it was people who were forced into the country.

Anon survivor of trafficking

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.

Read more: UK's first anti-slavery commissioner vows to name and shame police who criminalise victims