It was a December, and a normal day in the STOP THE TRAFFIK office. I remember I was sitting next to my colleague and engrossed in some task or other when the phone rang, another distraction! I picked it up and started to talk to the woman on the other end of the phone. She said her name was Sophie, and she said she had been trafficked. She said that she’d like help and would like to help us. Neither of us knew what this meant, but in hindsight it was about connecting, being understood, being part of something that worked to prevent the trafficking of people.
I got off the phone and just looked at my colleague with wide eyes and explained the phone call. It is so rare for someone to identify themselves as having been trafficked, and to be so open and articulate in sharing the horrors of what happened to them. I couldn’t have known then that the woman on the end of the phone would take me with her on an incredible journey of rebuilding her life, her hopes and dreams for the future, finding her own justice through sharing her story so that awareness is raised about trafficking – a journey which is still continuing after 6 years of friendship. I had no idea when I answered that phone and heard her story for the first time, that I would be proud to witness her telling it today.
Sophie and I built a relationship over the phone over the next few months, and eventually had our first meeting at a café in a train station perhaps 6 months after we first spoke, by which time I knew Sophie’s story …
She was living in a city in the North of England, and was 18yrs old and had no idea about human trafficking. One night she was out with friends, Kas started talking to her, he worked at a bar she went to all the time. He was very flattering and fun but she said no, she wasn’t interested and already had a boyfriend anyway. However, in the following months they developed a friendship, he accepted she wasn’t interested and what came out of it was an amazing friendship. They had swapped numbers and at this point chatted regularly on the phone. After about a year she broke up with her boyfriend of the time and Kas was there, understanding what she was going through and really listening.
They had known each other for some years now and she trusted him as a best friend. He told her he was off to Italy for a holiday, and she should come along for a weekend to cheer herself up. Tempted by some light relief, some pizza and a chance to get away for a few days, Sophie said yes.
It was when she got to Italy that everything changed.Kas changed. He announced on her first night that he was in debt and Sophie must help by working on the streets to earn the money he needed to pay back. It was the start of a previously unimaginable horrific experience.
Sophie had been trafficked but it wasn’t until she was back in the UK over a year later and an internet search threw up STOP THE TRAFFIK that she realised she wasn’t the only person that this had happened too. Sophie’s story is a stark reminder that trafficking is not something that happens far away to someone else. It happens everywhere. Sophie could have been my sister, one of the girls from school, or someone from my work.
Sophie found STOP THE TRAFFIK and has been involved ever since. She accompanied STOP THE TRAFFIK to the United Nations to present our declaration in 2009 and she has been part of raising awareness with vulnerable young people. She has changed our story and hopefully we have also changed hers.
You can read Sophie’s story which is out now and is available on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trafficked-Terrifying-Story-British-Forced/dp/0007438885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327677701&sr=8-1