Training the Protectors

By Simon Butcher

Heather Nesbitt is a former police officer who has been involved in investigating trafficking cases. She has written candidly for STOP THE TRAFFIK from her own personal experience on why it is so important for those people tasked with protecting trafficking victims to be adequately trained.

“My journey started many years ago – something I didn’t realise until this year. Only now do I know that I was in the presence of a family about to send a young girl to a forced marriage. Only know can I look back and realise with a heavy heart that the young girl whose bedroom I sat in with tears flowing down her face and who the very next day disappeared with no trace was the victim of a forced marriage.”

“I was on night duty with my team as a serving police officer. We had received a request to check on a young Asian girl who was known for running away but had returned home. It was what we all thought of as a routine welfare check. I entered the house to find a number of men and women in the sitting room but no sign of the young girl.”

“I remember the silence. The deafening silence. The overwhelming sense that we were not welcome.”

“I asked one of the men where the young girl was – only to be told that she was upstairs and did not want to see anyone. ‘She is fine – just a silly girl who had run away, but she’s back home safe now’, I was told. ‘She’s going on holiday tomorrow to see her auntie in Pakistan’. But as a police officer I wanted to make sure that the girl was safe.  I pushed the issue, and made the point that and I needed to speak to her myself. With great reluctance, they finally took me upstairs to her room. One of the women accompanied me but I stated I wanted to see the girl on her own. Again she was reluctant, but I fed her the usual line of the sooner I saw her, the sooner I would leave. This worked.”

“I went into the room to see a young girl, no more than 14 years old, sat on the bed crying. She looked well but there was this enormous sadness in her eyes that I will never forget – like she had resigned herself to something. I assumed it was because her family had told her off for running away. The girl said that she was fine, and that she was going away for a short while on holiday. She told me was sorry for running off. I did my usual speech about the dangers of running away. I left the family and went back to the rest of my team to complete the shift.”

“I did nothing – I didn’t know then what I know now.  But this is inexcusable because I am not talking about decades ago but an incident that occurred within the last 5 years. Training was never given to front-line police officers as I was then. Only now do I know that young girls were, and still are, being bought and sold for sex, with countless others being exploited in various other ways. Yet again no training was given or details of whom to contact if something was suspected.”

“It is not only the police but also councils that appear to have failed to see the merits of training. Whilst training of front-line public service professionals will not solve trafficking by itself, even training in its most basic form would be a huge step forward. Only then can we turn the Untrained Protectors into Trained Protectors.”


2 thoughts on “Training the Protectors

  1. Pingback: Vacation Scrapbook Paper - Travel and Vacations

  2. K. Pasanea


    I just read this and at first it almost felt like reading some bestselling novel. But nothing more than the plain truth of how people/persons treat another human being. Reading the last few sentences makes you even more aware of what is happening. And almost feeling guilty of not knowing what is going on. Good thing that there are people involved and that they try to end this kind of situations.

    just to let you know how I think about this,


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