Maya’s story highlights how important it is for victims to receive specialist long-term support and access to other services to overcome their traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives.
The law in England and Wales does not guarantee this. It offers an initial 45 days reflection and recovery period to those the government believes may be victims, whilst in Northern Ireland, and Scotland where this period is being extended to 90 days, legislation guarantees victims will be provided with support.
Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would ensure that victims like Maya will receive a support worker and a care plan for 12 months immediately following their formal recognition as a victim to help them make that journey to survivor and a life that is free for good.
Although the UK government has pledged its commitment to ending modern slavery, if this Bill doesn’t receive the attention it deserves, it risks failing to successfully move through the parliamentary process. That’s why we’re joining forces with the ‘Free For Good’ coalition of UK organizations.
Maya’s* story in her own words:
“I am fortunate enough to say that I am a survivor and no longer a victim of modern slavery, however from the age of 12 to 19 I was a slave to sex trafficking.
Through this crime, everything was taken from me: my control, my dignity, my future, my voice. I became hidden, from the years of 2005 to 2013 I was a statistic, a number within the figure of ‘potential victims of trafficking within the UK’.
Nobody should ever become a victim of trafficking, I should never have been trafficked for those many years undetected. I was not only a child but I was a child in a school. A child with a GP, a child with foster parents and social workers, all which failed throughout seven years to identify that I was being tricked, controlled, tortured and sold every day.
I spent years accepting that what my life had become couldn’t and wouldn’t ever change. It was impossible for me to speak out and nobody around me took any notice of the signs right in front of them.
However, I was extremely lucky to have been rescued four years ago, and all it took was one individual police officer not to dismiss the signs and to look further than what you see on the surface. I then spent the standard 45 days in a safe house. Although I am extremely grateful to have been in a safe house, 45 days isn’t enough time to establish the needs in each individual case, let alone recover from them.
Long-term support is crucial for any survivor’s recovery, without it you may as well not have been rescued at all. I spent the first two years of my recovery moving to four different places, all which claimed to support survivors of trafficking. Unfortunately, they did not have the knowledge and training so there was no recovery. Those two years were unbearable and as a result, my mental health and physical health suffered hugely.
In July 2015 I hit the jackpot! The Snowdrop Project. The first charity to provide adequate and trained long-term support. Having a support worker, counsellor and supportive community has changed my life drastically.
Being a victim of trafficking leaves its mark mentally and physically, four years on and I am still dealing with the effects of this crime but I have not had to do it alone.
Each survivor should be as lucky as I was to have long-term support. The effects and obstacles that you are faced with when rescued should never be faced alone.
It is also vitally important when working with vulnerable people who have been through such a high level of trauma that you have the right training or knowledge. From my own experiences, I found the places I lived that didn’t have it were more detrimental to my long-term recovery… Conversely, I have been able to grow in independence, confidence and strength with the ability to now make choices for the future I have back.
I count it an honour to use my experiences and my voice to speak out on behalf of those who don’t have a voice to help make the necessary changes to survivor care and the movement to eradicate Modern Slavery.”
*The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual survivor.