The misery of modern slavery may be closer to home than you think
Have you been watching Doing Money, the BBC Two drama about modern sex slavery?
If so, I think you will agree that it is not an easy watch. The TV reviewer in The Times put it this way: "From start to finish it was hardcore, unrelenting misery. It was also outstanding"
The central character was Ana, a young woman from Romania grabbed in a London street by a Romanian gang, trafficked to Ireland and forced to work in so-called pop-up brothels. Clients paid to beat her up and rape her. Shockingly, it is based on a true story.
"Oh well", you may be thinking, "that's London for you: terrible things go on in our capital city and, quite probably, in Ireland too. How fortunate that we live in leafy Wiltshire". We certainly are blessed to be in a county that is one of the safest in the UK. But how confident can we be that the shameful exploitation and violence which Ana suffers in Doing Money is not happening in our midst?
The sad truth is that we cannot be very confident at all. In September, police raided addresses in Marlborough, Salisbury, Trowbridge and Swindon as part of Operation Aidant. Two properties in Hampshire were also visited. Seven potential victims of modern slavery and sexual exploitation were identified and their welfare assessed. In addition, several people were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and other offences and released under investigation.
The police and partner agencies are right to engage in the fight against modern slavery. They have the expertise to keep watch on places where they believe such abusive crimes are being committed, but we cannot leave it to the police to rid our communities of this evil trade which causes such misery. We all need to be the eyes and ears of the police, which is why detectives have developed the #TellUsWhatYouSee campaign.
Some of the signs that might indicate that a person is a victim of modern slavery and exploitation are that they work long hours, seem to lack possessions, are chaperoned everywhere, have unusual injuries, only turn up to school sporadically, have no keys, cannot come and go as they please, or appear malnourished.
It is our responsibility as active citizens to raise any concerns we might have about someone we think might be suffering such abuse. Fortunately there are a number of ways to do so. We can call Wiltshire Police on 101 or, if we feel someone is in immediate danger, 999. We can also report anonymously via the National Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
There is also the Unseen UK app which can be downloaded from app stores. It is operated by Unseen UK and provides a simple guide to spotting the signs of modern slavery and reporting to the Modern Slavery Helpline.