Trafficking survivor Beth: How I escaped – and how Camden charity Women+Health helped me recover
- Credit: Archant
I come from a background where, in my childhood, there was domestic violence already.
That was the beginning of what I would call my blueprint – I was seven years old and there was already violence, and I was also subjected to sexual abuse in childhood.
One of the things I used to do to get out of the house, to get away from all the conflicts and what was going on and the abuse, was run – I didn’t have any destination in mind. I’d just like go anywhere. It helped me as a coping mechanism.
But, really unfortunately, when I was about 15 a grooming gang targeted me while I was out on a run late at night.
What they would do is just drive around the area looking for obviously vulnerable young girls.
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The first time, I said no, but then they saw me again. The second time around I accepted it because they caught me at a really vulnerable moment, I was having a really rough time.
The abuse started when they took me and my friend to the middle of the woods. They had people that we didn’t know come and then they separated us by putting her in another car.
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They put me in a position where I was just trapped. I couldn’t go anywhere.
After the incident in the woods, I remember trying to get away from them, but they were just bombarding my phone and it started to escalate.
I moved into the hostel at around 17 years old, and met my what I thought was my first real boyfriend.
It was a domestic violence situation, but there wasn’t any physical violence – it was more like complete control, and building me up to get me into the sex industry.
I was doing a bar job initially and then I went on to do admin. He’d say things like: “The job you’re doing is not sexy enough. You know I’m not attracted to you.”
And in any other normal situation, if I hadn’t have had that blueprint already, I’m sure I would have left. But I’d normalised it completely by that point. I just thought: this is what a relationship is. Eventually I did go into stripping, which then led into prostitution. When I told him about it, the first thing he said was: “You need to pay me £5,000. You owe me money.”
He took videos of me and quite regularly would use it against me, threatening to send it to my family.
I tried to get away, but I was stuck.
I was on the cusp of leaving the industry, but then I was introduced to a guy 18 years older than me, who I believe was affiliated with a prostitution ring.
Just coming out of prison, he played the role of listener but he was just gathering information.
I moved in to his place, which was obviously a setup because he just saw it that I could pay his bills. He was just constantly asking for money, which escalated over time.
Three years later, I was trying to get out of the industry, but he became more abusive because he was benefiting from me staying and he didn’t want me to leave.
The abuse just escalated so much: it went from being controlling and emotionally abusive to complete physical abuse towards the end.
He made a system where he only had one key, so when he went out during the day I was locked in the house without any food. He would return with food for the night, making me completely dependent on him. I essentially became a prisoner, and only left the house when I went to work.
The last time he assaulted me, he repeatedly choked me, giving me just enough breath to not pass out, followed with him repeatedly bashing my head against a wall. Luckily I managed to escape.
It was crazy because at the time, I completely believed that we were in a relationship. But when I finally got out of the industry, he just said: “I’m done with you.” At the time, I was completely devastated.
The final straw for me was the night at the strip club when a security guard said he would look after my drink for me.
I took my drink back and 20 minutes later I was completely out of it, I was falling all over the place. He took me up to the VIP suite where there was no one else present and assaulted me. I was in and out of consciousness.
After that, I went to rape crisis, who then referred me to Women+Health in 2012.
I was completely at rock bottom by that point, I just was completely suicidal and I didn’t see a way out. But then I just opened up to my therapist. She’s amazing.
And it was the first time that someone actually said to me: “That’s not normal. You know what he did to you? That’s not what you should be going through.”
I went to a week-long residential healing retreat for adult survivors. It gave me gave me a lot of tools to process things that had happened to me – it was really invaluable.
The vast majority of people [working] at the clinic that I’ve spoken to are survivors themselves. There’s something that leads people into that role, and they’re all women as well, which was helpful at the time. It was a very, very slow process, but it was the catalyst of my healing.
• Since her recovery, Beth has been fundraising for Women+Health so the charity can continue to help vulnerable women exposed to trafficking and exploitation. Together, they will be creating a new initiative to help women out of their situation to start their journey to recovery.
To find out more, visit womenandhealth.org.uk or call 020 7482 2786.