I work in the Finance department of a media company, and someone who dabbles in writing of any genre.
Published July 15th 2017
Trafficked - The gripping true story of Sophie Hayes
Imagine that you are in a country where you can't speak the language, hundreds of miles away from your family and friends. Nevertheless, you've assured yourself that you will be fine as you are in the company of someone who you have known for a number of years and utterly trust him with your life.
He lovingly showed you around the exotic country that he calls home, has taken you to the finest restaurant in town where you enjoyed the best cuisine and best wine. your mind, this is what dreams are made of, telling yourself, "I've finally found the one that I will spend the rest of my life with". Then when you're about to settle and enjoy the rest of your holiday, you are hit with a bombshell.
At first, he spoke to you in a very calm manner. It's like a crescendo. His voice turned from almost a whisper to screaming right at your face. His kind face changed to somewhat contorted and evil. He said he has a debt that has amounted to a hundred of thousand of dollars due to a drug deal that has gone wrong and it needs to be paid. He said you will help him pay it by getting a job on the streets, as a prostitute.
It's so surreal. Your mind is still dreaming with the impending great future and you can't seem to process it all. You've tried to reason that there must be another way, but a blow on your face stops any words. The taste of blood on your lips has made you speechless.
The seemingly ideal life that a few minutes ago you've dreamt of, has fallen into the abyss. The honeymoon that hasn't started is already over.The happily ever after that you have envisaged has turned into a nightmare that should never have had happened to a nice girl like you. Instead, you're catapulted into the seedy dangerous world of prostitution. You've been trafficked.
It seems like a drama that is only portrayed in the movies. Except that it's not. This book is a true story of Sophia Hayes.
A British girl who grew up in a very large house in an affluent suburb, Sophia's father has been very successful with his business venture and therefore has provided quite well to the family, but he unfortunately has contempt towards his children.
Sophia described her dad as loud, vulgar, self-engrossed and aggressively cruel. She has no recollection of receiving any affection from him, instead, his way of communication is to shout at them, swore and constantly calls them useless. He refers to her mother as a "soft piece of shit" that after so many years, she believed that she is "pointless, bloody irritating and stupid".
But Sophie has a mother who she loves very much, a confidante and her best friend. A very good mother. She has a brother, Jason, who still continues to seek his father's approval despite the bullying that he suffered from him for years. She also has a sister called Emily, and twin brothers, Mark and Jamie. All of them according to their father are accidents that should not have happened.
She could not understand as to how her mother stayed with such a horrid husband but the last straw was when she found out that he had been cheating on her. That night she overheard her Dad saying to her Mum, "yes, I am seeing someone. A dead ringer of you but a much younger one"
Sophie was 17 when her parents divorced. It brought a conclusion into her mind, that her father has never loved her. She felt that she's unlovable and he will never be able to love or trust anyone specifically men. Despite of her troubled childhood, Sophie embraced life with ease. She has a good job and eventually moved to a place of her own. Together with her friend, Serena, they enjoyed things that most women do - shopping, lunches, coffees and on the weekends they headed to nice bars and clubs.
They were in one of the clubs that they frequented when a guy came over and introduced himself as "Kas". Sophie didn't show any interest and continued to rebuke his advances but, nevertheless, he relentlessly pursued her. Until one night, he's nowhere to be seen. At first she wouldn't admit it, but she missed the unwanted attention.
Then out of the blue, she received a text and she instantly knew who it was from. It was Kas, her persistent admirer who now lives in Italy. For a number of years, they exchanged messages and regularly spoke on the phone. Although she had a partner at that time, she remained friends with him, even confiding her innermost secrets. Until one day Kas invited her to visit him and so she did.
The unfortunate events that consequently happened is to Sophie's mind unfathomable, and in her fragile mind, the only escape wass death. After six months of her harrowing existence, she was able break free from the clutches of evil or that's what she thought.
Back in the arms of her family and friends, her ordeal continued and in fact has magnified. Her trafficker had brazenly, unabatingly inflicted the torture right under the noses of the authorities. How?
Sophie's decision to share the world her torturous experience was her liberation from the purgatory. With the assistance of Jane, her writer, Harper Collins, the publisher and her agent, this book has come into fruition. Hoping that by doing so, she may be able to raise awareness on human trafficking and make a difference, how slight it maybe. You may ask as to why Sophie did not try to escape. Is she that naïve? Human trafficking is globally widespread, depriving the victims of basic human rights. Grooming can last for years, at times luring them with love, then eventually, to a life of torture and even death.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, the exact figure on the number of individuals who have been trafficked to Australia will never be known. Nonetheless, since Australia's anti-human trafficking strategy has been established in 2003, the Australian Government, has pledged $150 million to various network of domestic, regional and international anti-trafficking programs, including funds totalling $1.44 million to four non-government organisations, enabling them to continue their work, endeavouring prevention on human trafficking and slavery.
How can we tell the signs of an individual who is being trafficked? Below is an extract from The Office of Nevada Attorney General indicating that a person may be a victim of human trafficking -
Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
Lacking official identification documents
Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
Working excessively long hours
Living at place of employment
Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as boyfriend or "daddy," which is often street slang for pimp
Poor physical or dental health
Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
Small children serving in a family restaurant
Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment - barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves
As a concerned citizen, how can we contribute to help prevent human trafficking? By being aware of our surroundings and the people within. By letting the authorities know of our suspicion and perhaps by reading this book, our awareness will heightened.
This compelling book for me has highlighted the reality of human trafficking, the affect it has inflicted to someone's soul and what Sophie has done to do her best to lead a normal life. But for her, the word "normal" will never be in her vocabulary.
To some, being trafficked is a shameful reflection to their family, therefore if they are lucky enough to escape, they chose to keep it within themselves, mentally scarred for the rest of their life.
For us, the seeming day to day life is a routine but please break that routine and gift a thought to those who suffered and are still suffering by this heinous act.