Today is National Human Trafficking Day – a day to raise awareness of human trafficking taking place all over the world for the purpose of labour, sexual slavery and commercial sexual exploitation. It is estimated that there are currently over 40.3 million victims of modern day slavery, with both genders and all age groups affected.
Streetlight UK have been providing specific outreach support to victims of modern day slavery through sexual exploitation, trafficking and prostitution across Surrey since October 2016.
We caught up with them to ask just how their services are supporting some of the county’s most vulnerable women.
Streetlight UK expertise and flexibility have provided vital services to those in prostitution, working in partnership with the police across Surrey; Streetlight UK have become a regular, and at times an essential, resource to local officers.
We provided 64 hours of operational support to Sussex, Gatwick and Surrey police in 2017. This undoubtedly illustrates a clear need for the service within the area. There are many complex reasons why women are involved in the sex trade which includes and is not limited to financial hardship, abuse, poverty, family illness and loss, loneliness and low self-esteem. Due to online access being more accessible now than ever, and the increasing demand from men predominately means that brothels and short term lets are becoming more regular within the area.
One victims story:
Hannah* informed Streetlight UK that she was being forced to have sex for money to pay off a debt of £30,000 to her traffickers back in China. Her husband had got into debt through gambling and threats were made towards her husband and child. She was told that if she did not pay, she and her family would be killed. Hannah felt that she had no other choice but to come to the UK, where she would work as a waitress and her debt would be paid. However, this was not the case and she was forced to work in massage parlors which then led to being trafficked inside and out of London.
Hannah was very fearful, but with the support of Streetlight UK, agreed to be referred through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) process.
“Sex work feels like a deep dark hole I can’t climb out of. Please don’t send me back – they will kill me.”
Fortunately working alongside police officers, Streetlight UK were able to talk to Hannah about her options. Hannah informed Streetlight UK that she wanted help to escape the people who were forcing her into prostitution. She was successfully referred to the NRM and two suspects were charged with Human Trafficking and Prostitution Offences and subsequently convicted and sentenced in June 2017.
*Name has been changed
The funding we have received from the Community Foundation for Surrey has helped enable our Surrey frontline support work in Dorking, Guildford, Redhill, Reigate and Horley. Particularly supporting a proportion of the Team Leader role.
Streetlight UK saw an increase of approx. 25% in 2018 of our service, and the needs of the women are only increasing, placing further demand upon us as a specialist provider to meet their complex needs.
Women in Surrey who are involved in the sex trade deserve dignity and the right to make choices that may not have been made available to them, and Streetlight UK work individually with women providing practical and emotional support to those who want to exit. As a charity we are committed to helping every woman who comes into contact with our service to discover their intrinsic value and worth as individuals and sustain a new life free from violence and sexual exploitation.
We are incredibly proud to support Streetlight UK. The grants we make to groups in Surrey are made entirely possible by the giving of individuals, businesses and trusts whom we work closely with to help direct their giving to causes they are passionate about. You can find out more about Giving and Who we Support by clicking to through to the relevant pages.