Mira is from a prestigious and well off family. She was always an ambitious young lady who wanted a successful career in marketing. She studied hard, was highly qualified and worked several jobs. She was one day invited to attend an interview for a job, which she believed would further her career ambitions. The interview seemed very legitimate, being held in a smart office block by a well-dressed man. The man took her passport to check her details and she was offered a drink, which she accepted. Very quickly her senses began to fade and her memory blanks out at this point – She understands now that she was drugged. This is her story:
“I awoke to find a man dressing me and was aware that I had been raped. I was told that the incident had been filmed. I lived in a country where the fact I’d had sex outside of marriage, regardless of the circumstance, would bring great shame on my family.
My fear for my family’s honour meant that the men who had conspired to rape me were able to blackmail me into undertaking work as a prostitute for them.
I was made to attend high profile parties and have sex with a number of men. I was controlled by the shame of what had happened to me.
I did once try to make a complaint to the police, but they would not take me seriously and just saw me as a prostitute who had broken the law through the work I was doing.
I lived in fear of encountering a family member at one of the parties I was made to attend. I had heard that sometimes the men controlling me would send women to other countries and I asked to be taken to Europe to remove the constant threat of discovery that hung over me.
I was eventually taken to the UK on a student visa. I was allowed to study part time, but the rest of the time I was forced to work as a prostitute until I had earned back the cost of my visa. All of the money I earned was removed from me by the traffickers, and each time I neared the stated cost of freedom, the amount was raised.
I was terrified of the British police given my experiences in my home country. I was afraid and was regularly attacked by my traffickers. When my visa was due to expire the traffickers said they would move me to Italy. I did not want to go because I did not speak Italian and was worried for my safety. I was violently attacked and injured so badly that I sought help with an acquaintance I had met at university. This acquaintance was concerned for my wellbeing, and offered me a place to stay and a means to escape, without even knowing the full extent of my experiences.
When I fled I left my passport and had an expired visa. I was consequently arrested for having an expired leave to remain and placed in Yarlswood Detention Centre to be returned to my own country.
I was terrified of being returned to my home where the traffickers lived, but too ashamed to tell the police about my experiences as a prostitute because I felt that the acts I had performed were immoral. I thought that responsibility lay with me, rather than the traffickers.
Eventually I spoke to my lawyer who explained that what had happened to me was not my own fault, and I had been trafficked, something I had not considered before.
I entered a process of fighting to remain in the UK. I lived in temporary safe house accommodation and remained in limbo. I had no leave to remain in the UK, no right to work, and no long term accommodation.
I applied to Housing for Women’s Re-Place project that offers survivors of trafficking housing and support services. My application was successful. I now receive support from Housing for Women in the form of a home that I can call my own, and support to overcome my trauma. I can now move forward with my life. I want to work and continue my ambitious dreams. I currently cannot work because I don’t have a permanent leave to remain in the UK, but I spend my time volunteering and I remain hopeful that my leave to remain will be granted. Housing for Women continues to support me.”