Woman speaks of ordeal after being sexually abused and turned into a modern day slave

  • Watch ITV West Country's Sabet Choudhury's interview with Bethany.

A woman who was sexually abused and turned into a modern day slave has told ITV News more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people from exploitation.

Bethany, which is not her real name, is one of a rising number of victims desperate for help.

She has spoken of her ordeal which began after she was befriended by a woman who became a "very close friend".

"At first we were friends for a long time, I was able to sleep at her house, wash and clothe - just a really friendly environment", Bethany explained.

"After of couple of months of being friends with her, there were multiple men who used to knock on the door at a time when we had no money I was asked to do a favour, which was a sexual favour with a man in return for money.

"And after that it went on from there and became worse and worse."

Bethany told ITV News that she eventually felt trapped. She said: "I think that once things started to get a bit brutal to the point where I didn't want to do the sex work that I was forced to do, that was when then there was a worry that I may speak.

"That's when they kept me indoors so I wasn't allowed to leave the house."

She said she trusted the woman, and thought she had her best interests at heart.

"The abuse got so bad that I think I just got used to it at some point. I felt like I deserved it because it happened so many times", she said.

Her ordeal came to an end when the newsagent reported to the police that multiple men had been going into the house and having sexual intercourse with her.

Bethany said: "At this point I had not recollection, I was in denial, I didn't want to believe it because I cared about this woman so much and built that friendship.

"So from there, the police then took me out of the house, took me to the police station late at night where I had a full examination and found two internal injuries and two different DNAs inside me, which I had no memory of.

"Luckily this newsagent knew that there was a girl in there and that she was at serious risk.

"If it wasn't for her I don't think I would have been found. I think it would have carried on until death, I think I would have killed myself."

She says she now wants to raise awareness, and make sure other women and girls get the support they need.

She added: "There is help there, you've just got to find it and go to the right people."

It comes as anti-slavery charity Unseen has revealed their helpline has recorded its busiest year ever.

New figures from the charity found sex trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude are at record highs.

The findings from the UK Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline include: 

  • A potential 6,516 victims of modern slavery indicated – an increase of 116% compared to 2021  

  • A total of 7,315 calls from victims, the public and professionals working in organisations such as the NHS, local government and businesses – an increase of  16%  

  • 1,046 cases of labour exploitation reported – an increase of 134% 

  • 479 cases of sexual exploitation, where people are forced into sex work – an  increase of 66% 

  • 114 cases of domestic servitude, where people are forced to work as servants in a  home – an increase of 75% 

  • A huge increase in potential victims in the care sector – 708 reported in 2022  (1,024% increase on 2021).  

Justine Carter, Director of Unseen, said: “Every call we get is one too many as slavery should not exist today. However, it’s  encouraging that more people are contacting us so that we can help them out of a life  of misery.

“There are around 100,000 people in the UK in modern slavery, so these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s still a lot we can and must do to prevent vulnerable people from falling prey to callous exploiters.”

"To be serious about tackling modern slavery in the UK we need much more awareness of the true size of the problem, better support for victims, and many more resources going into targeting the criminals behind the exploitation.

“Instead, the UK is bringing in new migration laws that criminalise some victims of  modern slavery, forcing them underground and keeping them vulnerable to traffickers.

“We should be doing more to expose the extent of slavery – not driving it further into the  shadows.” 

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this report, help and advice is available here:

Modern Slavery Helpline: 08000 121700 / www.modernslavery.co.uk

Charity Unseen's website : https://www.unseenuk.org/