When Sophie Hayes met Bledi she knew he'd change her life – but she had no idea how much. At first, it was a typical whirlwind romance. But one day Bledi told her that love always comes at a price ...
Bledi tricked Sophie into travelling to Italy, where he forced her to sell her body to help him pay off a debt. Terrified and ashamed, Sophie worked the dangerous Italian streets without rest, seeing as many as 30 clients in a night. She was completely at Bledi′s mercy for food, clothes and shelter. And without money, friends or family, she was trapped.
But Sophie found the strength to keep going, clinging to life by a single thread of hope: that somehow she′d find a way to escape.
5 of 5 Trafficked
Trafficked is an amazing story of courage, strength, and the will to survive. It amazes me when I see these stories on the news and read about them. I mean how does a person get taken and forced into being a sex slave? I find it scary that things like this happen.
When I read Sophies story I was utterly frozen in time because I could not stop reading it was like a train wreck I needed to see what happened and why they happened. In Trafficked we get the real story of a sex slave Sophie. Sophie befriended a guy Bledi. He was always there for her and he cared about her and they shared a special relationship. If Sophie was sad and needed someone Bledi was there for her. She never in her wildest dreams would she have expected Bledi to take her to another country and force her to sell her body to pay off his debts.
But that is exactly what happened between Bledi and Sophie. Sophie was forced to be with many men day in and day out to pay Bledi's debt or else he would punish her. Sophie did as she was told and bought her time until she was able to escape. What she had to endure and what she had to do to survive was absolutely shocking. I could not believe what I was reading and at times I was so angry because the nerve of that asshole to put someone through what he did to pay off his debt. To me he should have gotten off his ass and taken care of his own debt and never should have forced Sophie to do what she did.
This is such an amazing and heart wrenching story that will have you on the edge of your seat. This is one of those stories where you can't seem to get enough but at the same time you are outraged by what happened.
The Sophie Hayes Foundation was set up and inspired by Sophie in January 2012. Since Sophie's return to the UK she has been relentless in her work in order to make a difference and change perceptions, Human Trafficking is one of the world's fastest growing crimes, Sophie brings to life that this could happen to anyone, Sophie could be your sister, your daughter, your friend.... Sophie could be just like you....
"Just a few years ago everything changed. I was trafficked. I was fooled. I was deceived by a man who said that he loved me. The tragedy is that I believed him. Now I know that love is not shown by forcing me to work on the streets, beating me up, force feeding me and turning me into someone with no mind of my own. For people like him my life meant nothing, I was a product and a vehicle to make money but I am a survivor.
Since my ordeal I have been determined to turn the experience into a positive one, everyone deserves freedom and their basic human rights, and although he stole my freedom, I am determined to do everything in my power to make a difference and share a story of Hope to others.
Sophie Hayes - Founder
'Trafficked' Sophie's personal story of being trafficked from theUK.
It was early April, and a normal day in the STOP THE TRAFFIK office. I remember I was sitting next to my colleague and engrossed in some task or other when the phone rang, another distraction! I picked it up and started to talk to the woman on the other end of the phone. She said her name was Sophie, and she said she had been trafficked. She said that she'd like help and would like to help us. Neither of us knew what this meant, but in hindsight it was about connecting, being understood, being part of something that worked to prevent the trafficking of people.
I got off the phone and just looked at my colleague with wide eyes and explained the phone call. It is so rare for someone to identify themselves as having been trafficked, and to be so open and articulate in sharing the horrors of what happened to them. I couldn't of known then that the woman on the end of the phone would take me with her on an incredible journey of rebuilding her life, her hopes and dreams for the future, finding her own justice through sharing her story so that awareness is raised about trafficking - a journey which is still continuing after 6 years of friendship. I had no idea when I answered that phone and heard her story for the first time, that I would be proud to witness her telling it today.
Sophie and I built a relationship over the phone over the next few months, and eventually had our first meeting at a café in a train station perhaps 6 months after we first spoke, by which time I knew Sophie's story …
She was living in a city in the North of England, and was 18 years old and had no idea about human trafficking. One night she was out with friends, Kas started talking to her, he worked at a bar she went to all the time. He was very flattering and fun but she said no, she wasn't interested in anyone at that time. However, over the years they developed a friendship, he accepted she wasn't interested and what came out of it was an amazing friendship, after a couple of years they chatted regularly on the phone. After about a year she broke up with my boyfriend at the time and Kas had been there for her, understanding what she was going through and really listening.
They had known each other for six years now and she trusted him as a best friend. He told her he was off to Spain for a holiday, and she should come along for a weekend to cheer herself up. Tempted by some light relief, some pizza and a chance to get away for a few days, Sophie said yes.
About six weeks later he invited her to see him again in Italy, It was when she got to Italy that everything changed. Kas changed. He announced on her third night that he was in debt and Sophie must help by working on the streets to earn the money he needed to pay back. It was the start of a previously unimaginable horrific experience.
Sophie had been trafficked but it wasn't till she was back in the UK and a few months later an internet search threw up STOP THE TRAFFIK that she realised she wasn't the only person that this had happened too. Sophie's story is a stark reminder that trafficking is not something that happens far away to someone else. It happens everywhere. Sophie could have been my sister, one of the girls from school, or someone from my work.
Sophie found STOP THE TRAFFIK and has been involved ever since. She accompanied STOP THE TRAFFIK to the United Nations to present our declaration in 2009 and she has been part of raising awareness with vulnerable young people. She has changed our story and hopefully we have also changed hers.
Bex Keer - STOP THE TRAFFIK
What is Human Trafficking?
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes human trafficking as follows:
"Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transfering, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. UNODC, as guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocols thereto, assists States in their efforts to implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Trafficking in Persons Protocol)."
Raising Awareness (Sophie's Story)
Raising awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery is done in many innovative ways, telling many different stories. Our aspiration is to work in tandem with other counter trafficking organisations on the quest to raise awareness.
Sophie could be anyone, she breaks the stereotypes of the trafficking victim and her story shows that we all need to be aware. Sophie's story is a stark reminder that trafficking is not something that happens far away to someone else. It happens everywhere. Sophie is someone's sister, she was one of the girls from your school, she is someone from your work. Sophie could be you.
Through her foundation, Sophie tells her story around the world. Her book has been translated into many languages, she has traveled extensively, and together we have spoken across the country advocating greater unity and strategy in combating human trafficking- She has discussed policy change in the Vatican, attended parliamentary sessions about regulatory reform both at home and abroad, and has spread her story with school children across the country. All while working a full time job, doing radio interviews on the train and taking her annual leave to visit safe-houses and talk to governments.
This branch of SHF activities involves spreading Sophie's story and the work of the foundation to inspire hope, change minds, prevent trafficking and challenge demand.
Sophie and members of the team have spoken and been interviewed by the press (including BBC, Sky and CNN), and takes an active role in school education discussions. SHF has developed a decent relationship with the APPG as part of its strategy for parliamentary influencing to improve government responsibility and response to human trafficking.
This branch of SHF is more than marketing for the organisation - such activities are undertaked to raise awareness of prevention, and discuss the hope for survivors. These opportunities are also used to highlight gaps in service provision and the failings of legislative and policy processes. Moreover, advocacy is effective as a platform for building networks and partnerships.