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“My traffickers threatened to kill me. I have been raped many times.”
My name is Maria and I am 24 years old.
I have been raped, beaten, sold, cut with knives and threatened. I have scars and I am depressed.
I come from a very poor family and grew up in the countryside of an Eastern European country, I did not regularly attend school and did not have a good formal education. When I lived at home my father used to drink a lot. He would beat me and my family. When I was 13 my sister sold me, to a man I did not know. He took me to Italy by boat, which was very dangerous. I did not know where I was going. Once we arrived in Italy I was sold again, to a different man. He took me to a house and raped me.
I was a virgin until then.
It was then that I realised what was happening to me. I started crying and the man started to beat me, hard. But neighbours overheard me screaming and called the police, who took me away and left me in a nunnery for protection. I was returned home to my family after two years. But just four days later I was sold again.
This time by my father.
He sold me to a different man, but now I knew what was happening to me. Again we went by boat to Italy, where I was kept prisoner for seven months. They controlled my eating and made me drink vinegar. Finally I was smuggled into the UK in a lorry. I was in London for five years. I worked every day, seeing 65 to 70 customers a day. I could earn up to £1,000 per day, but I had to pay £400 every day in 'rent' and £60 for a maid, as well as 20% of everything else I earned.
The men who came to me were of all different nationalities. I did not ask any of them for help. I was too frightened. My traffickers threatened to kill me, and they threatened to take my sister too and do the same to her. I was beaten often, very badly. I have scars from it now, especially from my broken arm. I have been raped many times.
I finally escaped with the other women in my house. We ran away with the owner's boyfriend and went to the police. The police brought me to Poppy.
Although I am now free I am depressed. I will never forget what they did to me.