Video report by ITV News’ Sarah Saunders
‘Anna’ is a young British survivor of human trafficking living in Kent. She was groomed from the age of 13 and it was 11 years before she would escape.
Even now she is afraid of the men who threatened and hurt her.
We have hidden her identity and re-voiced her words to protect her privacy and safety.
She says the first men to approach her seemed friendly, offering her lifts to school. It wasn’t long until threats and violence followed. The 13-year-old was told her siblings would be in danger if she didn’t follow orders.
‘Anna’ spent the next 11 years in fear of the sex traffickers.
She said: “I think – because he was a sex offender he was looking for just anyone that would, come. The first male started off to just be friendly – he gave lifts to school.
“He then introduced me to the other males but they would start to make threats if you didn’t do what they said.”
She describes the violence they would use, throwing people from cars, ‘using petrol’ on them and chillingly she just touches on some of the terrible physical injuries they inflicted on her.
She is still receiving surgery years after finding her freedom.
‘Anna’ explains the complex situation trafficking victims find themselves in. They are often seen working in pubic places, but in fear of the gangs, it is hard to escape. Traffickers will sometimes encourage drug dependency as a means of control. They might get their victims to commit crimes to make them afraid of the police. It is a complex web of threats, violence and dependency.
‘Anna’, along with other girls and women would be taken to petrol stations and transferred from one van to another and moved around the country. If they did need medical treatment they might be allowed to visit a pharmacy briefly, or forced to take a mobile phone into a doctor’s appointment, so the traffickers could hear everything that was said.
Eventually ‘Anna’ was saved by an A&E nurse who was familiar with the the signs of trafficking. But after all that time – she was given 45 days of government funded support. She says it is simply not enough.
Cheryl Mvula of Stop the Traffik, a Kent based charity, says we must become more aware of the signs of trafficking as a community.
In Kent there is a specialist unit dedicated to this type of organised crime.
If you are concerned about something you have seen you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline : 08000 121 700