Jess's story

CSE & Human Trafficking
case study child trafficking

Jess wasn’t an adult. She was just a child…

Jess was the envy of all the girls at school. None of the other 14-year olds in her year had a 30-year old boyfriend that met them at the school gates in a flash car. They didn’t get presents of perfume and clothes. And none of them had gone ‘all the way’ with a boy, let alone a man.

Because Chris told Jess that she drove him crazy, and that he loved her. And if she loved him too, she’d sleep with him. Soon he was picking her up from home and taking her back to his flat, where they’d listen to music, smoke and have sex. Unlike her parents and teachers, he treated Jess like an adult. She felt special.

But Jess wasn’t an adult. She was just a child. So when Chris started inviting his friends over and letting them touch her and have sex with her, she didn’t know what to do.

She was passed around a steady stream of strange men like a toy, and forced to do things no child should ever do.

Human trafficking happens at home, too.

Soon it wasn’t just happening in Chris’s flat. Soon, he would pick her up in the morning and drive her to flats all over the country, where she’d be forced to have sex with men as old as 65. Men on drugs, who hurt her. Men who got more excited if she struggled and cried.

She knew it was wrong. And she tried to make it stop. But if she told him she didn’t want to, or threatened to break contact with him, Chris hit her – sometimes to the point where she ended up in A&E. But Chris was clever. He always went with her, and never left her side. Jess never got the chance to tell the nursing staff. And worse than hurting her, he told her he’d hurt her parents too, show them the vile videos he’d recorded of her. He threatened to take her little sister away where they’d never find her, and let his friends enjoy her too.

Sex Trafficking of children isn’t necessarily kidnapping them, the traffickers work on developing a relationship with the children then coercing and manipulating them through physical and emotional blackmail.

Jess was trapped. The only thing worse than what was happening to her was the idea of those vile men getting hold of her sister.

And she had seen how violent Chris could be. She knew he could really hurt her Mum and Dad. And the thought of them seeing those videos… No. So the abuse carried on for 4 years, until something inside her broke.

The slave trade may have been abolished in the 19th century, but there are still 20.9 million slaves trafficked worldwide today*. Many of these are children, resulting in the development of the proposed  Modern Day Slavery Bill 

She waited for a day when Chris wasn’t coming for her – her 18th birthday, as it happens – and packed a bag. Not a big one – her parents would have noticed. Just a couple of changes of clothes, her make-up bag, and the stuffed rabbit her Dad gave her when she was a baby.

Then without saying a word to anyone, she caught a bus to London from her hometown in the Midlands. There was no other choice in Jess’s mind. She knew her Mum and Dad had been struggling with her behaviour – they’d tried all sorts to get her to talk – but there was no way she could risk it. The best way to keep them safe was to get out of the way

She’d never been to London before. Didn’t realise how big it was, and had no idea where to go or what to do. Her only plan had been to get away – she hadn’t really thought about where she was running to.

But then, for the first time since her abuse began, Jess got lucky.

After sleeping rough for 3 nights, she was picked up by homeless charity workers and taken into a shelter. There, she opened up and told her story, and they immediately contacted the local social services team.

Jess is still too scared to go home. Scared of what Chris will do to her, and her family. So she’s changed her name, and stays in touch by telephone. Her social workers are hopeful that one day, she’ll feel able to travel back to the Midlands and at least visit her parents, but for now, Jess doesn’t feel able to. So she lives alone in a little flat, where she feels safe and her Mum and Dad can visit her.

It wasn’t just Jess’s life that was destroyed by Chris. Her parents are devastated too. They had absolutely no idea that this kind of thing went on in Britain, let alone under their noses.

A team of social workers and healthcare professionals receiving guidance and support from the NWG is helping Jess and her family come to terms with what happened to her – her parents sincerely wish they’d known about the NWG sooner. Domestic trafficking networks are dangerous, organised and sophisticated, and the victims are only getting younger. Their future is in our hands.

You can help by supporting National CSE Awareness Day on 18th March. Post your personal pledge on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands, to raise awareness of domestic sex trafficking.

If you can, make a donation today and you can fund our work to train, support, guide and advise organisations that support violated, vulnerable children like Jess.

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