Ada, 25 from Sierra Leone

Ada* says…

“Life in Sierra Leone was difficult. My father beat me a lot when I was growing up and yelled at me all the time. When I decided to convert to Christianity my parents threw me out of the house, so I went to live with a friend and worked in a restaurant to support myself. I was quite happy to be living independently.

“I had been with my boyfriend Paul* for about six months and we often talked about moving abroad to find work and get married; we were in love. Paul suggested that we move to the UK because he had an uncle there; I thought it would be a good opportunity to start a new life and maybe go back to school so that I could become a teacher.

“Paul arranged everything and we travelled together to London. I carried my own papers and travel documents. I was happy and excited to be going to London to start my life with Paul.

“Paul’s uncle picked us up from the airport and we went to a house together. Paul said that he was going out for a bit and that I should stay with his uncle; after Paul left his uncle raped me. I was devastated and felt helpless. A few hours later his uncle came into the room and said that Paul had gone back to Sierra Leone and that I had to work as a prostitute until I had paid back the £5,000 it cost to bring me here. He raped me again and told me that he would keep doing it until I agreed to pay back the money. I couldn’t believe that Paul could do this to me, I was devastated.

“I was taken to a brothel and made to work there for six months. One time after a few months, Paul called me. He wanted me to know that if I tried to escape or went back to Sierra Leone, he would find me and hurt me. I asked how he could do this to me; he laughed and said that his uncle owned me now.

“There were five other women at the brothel. I had to have sex with two or three men a day and I was kept locked in at all times. I had to see customers at whatever time they came to the brothel, so I was often woken up in the middle of the night. The men who ran the brothel threatened me and often hit me, so I was afraid to say no. I was also afraid to ask the customers for help because the men at the brothel told me that they would find out and beat me. At first I used to cry a lot, but after a few months I realised there was no point because nobody would help me.

“Usually the customers wanted safe sex, but sometimes they wouldn’t use a condom. They paid more when they wanted this. I saw a lot of bad things whilst I was at the brothel. I saw the other women being beaten and raped. I was raped too.

“I escaped at New Year, when the men held a New Year’s Eve party. This was the first time that the door wasn’t locked, so when nobody was looking I ran out of the back door.

“I slept in a park for a few nights before a woman asked me if I was ok. I told her about the brothel and Paul; she took me to a police station because she said that there are people who can help me.

“The police spoke to Eaves’ Poppy Project and the same day I moved into one of their safe houses. I had a support worker at Poppy who was really nice and went with me to appointments with the police, solicitor and doctor. I felt sad for a while, but after a few months I made some friends in the Poppy house and began to think that I would be ok. Eaves encouraged me to go to some art and drama classes to build my confidence and they also helped me to claim asylum because I can’t go back to Sierra Leone.

“I recently moved into my own flat and am now at college and on my way to becoming a teacher; the reason I came to the UK. I will be eternally grateful to Eaves for helping me put my life back together.”

*Not their real names.

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