Unchosen are a Bristol based charity, and we use film to tell people about Modern Slavery in the UK. We use these films at events and conferences for the public, frontline workers such as the police and local authorities, and vulnerable groups such as the homeless and young people. As such we are delighted to be part of Bristol Zero Tolerance.
In February 2016 we launched the Unchosen Modern Slavery Short Film Competition, which this year focuses on collecting short films about Child Slavery, including the exploitation of girls. We ask filmmakers to make a film of no more than eight minutes based on one of our case studies, which look at all forms of exploitation of children. These films are then used in our ongoing work countrywide, at events, conferences, trainings and workshops.
The exploitation of children affects girls and boys equally, but the following case study is about the exploitation of a young girl called Jess, and can be found in more detail on our website:
Jess was the envy of all the girls at school. None of the other 14-year olds in her year had a 30-year old boyfriend who met them at the school gates in a flash car. They didn’t get presents of perfume and clothes. And none of them had gone ‘all the way’ with a boy, let alone a man. Chris told Jess that she drove him crazy, and that he loved her, and if she loved him too, she’d sleep with him.
Soon he was picking her up from home and taking her back to his flat, where they’d listen to music, smoke and have sex. Unlike her parents and teachers, he treated Jess like an adult. She felt special. But Jess wasn’t an adult. She was just a child. So when Chris started inviting his friends over and letting them touch her and have sex with her, she didn’t know what to do. She was passed around a steady stream of strange adults like a toy, and forced to do things no child should ever do. Soon it wasn’t just happening in Chris’s flat. Soon, he would pick her up in the morning and drive her to flats all over the country, where she’d be forced to have sex with men as old as 65. Men on drugs, who hurt her. She tried to make it stop. But if she told him she didn’t want to, or threatened to break contact with him, Chris hit her – sometimes to the point where she ended up in A&E.
The abuse carried on for 4 years, until something inside her broke. She waited for a day when Chris wasn’t coming for her – her 18th birthday, as it happened – and packed a bag and got on the coach to London. After sleeping rough for 3 nights, she was picked up by homeless charity workers and taken into a shelter. There, she opened up and told her story, and they immediately contacted the local social services team. Jess is still too scared to go home. Scared of what Chris will do to her, and her family. So she’s changed her name, and stays in touch with her parents by telephone. Her parents are devastated too. They had absolutely no idea that this kind of thing went on in Britain, let alone under their noses.
Cases such as this are not rare. In the UK, in 2015, 3,226 people (including 982 children) were identified as potential victims of modern slavery, out of which 1,080 had been forced into sexual exploitation. It’s important to understand that modern slavery victims are not necessarily migrants. On the contrary, the UK is the fifth most prevalent country of origin of victims, and comes in third regarding minors. Victims of sexual exploitation are often removed from their communities leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and reducing their ability to escape. Many victims are groomed over a long period of time and are coerced into performing sexual acts once they believe that they are in a relationship with their abuser. They are therefore reluctant to speak out or seek help, or are unable to due to language barriers, fear of the police and organisations, fear of violence and being caught by their abusers. Victims of sex trafficking may be found working on the streets or places that offer sex acts such as massage parlours, saunas, strip clubs, adult bookshops and bars.
For more information – or if you wish to organise an event or a conference with Unchosen – please visit www.unchosen.org.uk.
If you see anything you think might be suspicious:
Police (non-emergencies) – 101
The Salvation Army Referral Helpline – 0300 3038 151
UK Slavery Helpline – 0800 0121 700
NSPCC – 0808 800 5000
Crimestoppers – 0800 555 111
Police (emergencies) – 999