A modern slavery survivor has revealed how she was sold to a criminal gang for sex and became addicted to drugs after being groomed when aged 13 by a 70-year-old neighbour.
Jenny, whose name has been changed, was in primary school when she first chatted with Keith, who lived nearby. He would soon invite her round his house, give her lifts to school, and buy her gifts.
Eventually, he demanded sex in return for these favours and as the months went on, he introduced more men to Jenny to have intercourse with, who would be ‘more forceful and violent’ and offer drugs and alcohol to the teenager.
After being sold to a criminal gang who sexually exploited her for years, Jenny reached out for help and was told to call The Salvation Army; within two hours she had been taken to a safe house, where specialist workers helped her get the support she needed.
Jenny is now doing a skydive alongside another survivor of modern slavery to raise money for the charitable organisation.
Jenny (pictured), whose name has been changed, was in primary school when she first chatted with Keith, who lived nearby. He would soon invite her round his house, give her lifts to school, and buy her gifts
Speaking in a video for the campaign, Jenny, who spent a lot of time on her own as a child, recalled: ‘I got to know Keith when I went to primary school. I was in Year Six, and he had a dog so on the way to school you’d pet the dog.
‘He was always around so it was just a good morning and a friendly face. It was just nice to have someone so interested.
‘He’d invite you in the house for a drink and he’d put his hand on your knee and it was uncomfortable but it was, it sort of progressed from there.’
Jenny is the youngest of three girls. Her father walked out when she was young, while her mother worked long hours to make ends meet.
She was 13-years-old when 70-year-old Keith started giving her lifts to school and buying her gifts.
‘I realised it was wrong when he started to say “I’ve done this for you, what are you going to do for me?”, recalled Jenny. ‘I said I didn’t want to.
‘He said: “It’ll only take a couple of seconds and I was special to him and if he was special to me and I appreciated what he did I’d have sex”. I think from the first time that’s when he felt he owned you or made his mark on you.’
As the months went on, Keith demanded more from Jenny, but the teenager was too scared to tell her family.
She admitted: ‘I didn’t tell them because Keith had always said it was a secret, and I didn’t tell them because I was ashamed. The background that I come, from sex before marriage or sex itself is quiet a hidden subject and shameful to speak about.’
Eventually, Keith started inviting other men to the house, explaining to Jenny that he would need her to do him a ‘favour’ because he was indebted to them.
‘They’d offer you weed, they’d offer you drugs, they’d offer you alcohol, and they were a lot more forceful and violent,’ said Jenny. ‘They’d pass you around. The men would then bring their friends in and then the network got bigger.’
When she was 17 she left home and found a place at a women’s refuge; it was the first of many attempts to get help and to escape.
But by now she had an addiction to the drug diazepam, explaining: ‘I kept going back. You can try and run away but trafficking almost steals your identity.
‘So you become what they’ve made you become. That’s all you feel worth so you go back because that’s the only thing giving you purpose.’
However, one day, the police put her in touch with Victim Support who recommended she ring The Salvation Army.
Within two hours of calling the organisation she had been picked up and taken to a safe house, where specialist support workers assisted her in getting the support she needed.
‘If it wasn’t for that phone call, and if it wasn’t for The Salvation Army, I would’ve been dead by now,’ insisted Jenny. ‘They didn’t ask questions, they didn’t judge you, they didn’t put any pressure on you. You just felt free and safe.’
Jenny is one of two survivors of modern slavery who are preparing to leap from a plane to raise money for The Salvation Army after receiving support from the church and charity. Dan (pictured), whose name has been changed, alongside Jenny, are planning their jump for Sunday 17 October, the day before Anti-Slavery day
Jenny is one of two survivors of modern slavery who are preparing to leap from a plane to raise money for The Salvation Army after receiving support from the church and charity.
Dan, whose name has been changed, alongside Jenny, are planning their jump for Sunday 17 October, the day before Anti-Slavery day – which aims to raise awareness of the plight of slavery survivors and the warning signs people can look out for.
Jenny and Dan are also hoping their skydive will encourage others to sign up to take the leap for The Salvation Army so that more funds can be raised to help support the organisation’s work with modern slavery survivors.
The Salvation Army provides specialist support for all adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales, working with a network of partners running safe houses and outreach support.
Jenny said: ‘The Salvation Army was by my side in the scariest moments of my life. They gave me hope and helped me find my wings and a confidence to face my fears.
‘I want to do this skydive to raise money for The Salvation Army so they can continue to be by the side of those who need them most and walk with people during the scariest times of their lives. Also, I want to fly!’
Dan was taken to a Salvation Army safehouse after his warehouse bosses started forcing him to sell drugs. They threatened him and his family and didn’t pay him for the long hours he worked.
When the police raided the warehouse, they realised he was a victim and took him to a safe house where The Salvation Army and its partners helped him to recover from his ordeal.
Speaking about The Salvation Army’s support, Dan said: ‘I was always treated with respect, honesty and integrity. I learned so much – from cooking skills to languages and other cultures – and their positive energy would instantly cheer me up whenever I felt down.
‘They also helped me apply for work and my confidence grew under their care. Amazing people who deserve recognition. What an amazing service. I will forever be in their debt.’
Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking & Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, said: ‘We are so grateful to Jenny and Dan and in awe of their bravery in skydiving to raise vital funds for our work with modern slavery survivors.
To donate to the work of The Salvation Army support with modern slavery survivors and support Jenny and Dan in their skydive click here.