It’s something that many people would never guess occurs in London – human trafficking – but a woman who was recruited and victimized for eight years in the city is sharing her story.
Last week London saw its first human trafficking charges laid in history, and for many that was the first time hearing about it happening right at home.
But for a woman we are going to refer to as Stacy, the story is all too familiar.
“Because I thought I was in love, which is a common thread between these women, I did what I thought I needed to do to keep the family unit together.”
It all started with a broken young woman without a family, persuaded by her boyfriend to make extra money to get them back on their feet.
But what she didn’t realize was that she would be trapped in a harrowing lifestyle for the next eight years and would never see a penny.
Stacy says “Every girl remembers their first client, I will never forget it as long as I live.”
She explains it’s a vicious cycle, with many girls becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol to numb the emotional pain of what they do.
“You need alcohol or something to get on the stage for 15 minutes of your life where you are and you are the focal point of interest.”
As months and years passed the brainwashing was what kept Stacy dancing – and it kept her from going to police.
“I had been isolated from friends and family. I had no friends, my family had gone too, and there was nowhere to turn. I genuinely felt trapped. You have no value other than to make money for somebody else.”
Stacy recalls the physical abuse that she and the other women experienced every day, on top of being sexually assaulted.
“I saw a lot of girls being beaten badly, I had all my toes broken at one time, I couldn’t walk, because I said no at one time.”
What many people don’t know is that sex trafficking happens in almost every community and the victims aren’t always from overseas either. In fact a huge percentage of these girls, women and sometimes boys are from Canada.
“When I first started there were a lot of Romanian girls, but as time went on it became primarily local girls.”
And then one day four years ago and with no plan, Stacy ran to a shelter.
“I ran with the clothes on my back…all these girls have to rebuild their life again. It had been eight years since I held a pen, I had to learn how to do my signature again. I ran for my life.”
Now Stacy works to educate people about human trafficking, and says she believes one day she will be completely healed, but will always live with the horrific memories.
“I now know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m going to help fight this problem and work with the women. It was eight years for me and I cried every single day.”
Even though it’s been four years and she’s so involved in the community Stacy’s still hiding. Her ex-boyfriend and many of the men who worked in the industry are not behind bars.
She also wants to share the importance of getting funding for shelters where women who are trafficked can heal and not be victimized again.
Talia Ricci, CTV London