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On holiday in Greece as a year-old, Megan Stephens fell in love. But her boyfriend turned out to be a pimp who trafficked her for six years. She tells her story to Elizabeth Day. A few weeks ago, Megan Stephens got on a bus in a bustling city centre in the north of England. A man sat across the aisle from her. He was wearing sunglasses and had a moustache. For a horrible moment, she thought she recognised him. I was really paranoid. The man on the bus had exactly the same features as someone from her past.
As a result of what that person did to Megan, I am not allowed to use her real name or describe where she lives. I can tell you that she is Other than that, she has asked me not to mention any details which might undermine her anonymity. This is because 11 years ago, at the age of 14, Megan was trafficked into the sex industry. According to the United Nations, she was one of an estimated 2. Megan, however, claims she used to net her abusers a similar figure each day. Absolutely terrified. It is a story of how a vulnerable teenage girl on holiday in Greece with her mother was trafficked into the sex industry and spent six years as a prostitute — in brothels, on the streets, in dingy hotel rooms — before finally making her escape from a life of relentless physical and sexual abuse.
It is horrifying not only because of the sadistic violence she endured, but also because of how easily she seemed to slip into this spiral of depravity and how difficult she found it to get out. We meet in a beige hotel, chosen for convenience and its lack of defining features. The ghostwriter, a kindly woman called Jane, sits with us, to provide reassurance.
Outside it is dark and raining. Megan drinks a cup of instant coffee as she talks. When she speaks, her words seem curiously disconnected from the overall neutrality of her demeanour. It feels as though I am looking at her through a pane of glass — her eyes are veiled, the lines of her face set deliberately not to show too much emotion. There is a dissonance between what she is saying and the way she is saying it, almost as though the only way she can get the sentences out is to be as calm and matter-of-fact as possible.
In a different life, she would have liked to have studied English literature at university. I flinched when someone shouted. Megan had a troubled upbringing. Her parents divorced when she was four and both her father and mother had problems with alcohol. So when, on the first night away in a local bar in a seaside town, Megan caught the eye of Jak, a handsome Albanian man, and he started paying her attention, she responded.
Within days she felt herself to be in love. Within weeks Megan had persuaded her mother not to return to England and had set up house with her new boyfriend. Why did her mother allow it? Megan shrugs. In the book Megan recounts how her mother had also struck up a relationship with a local bar owner. Greece seemed to offer them both the opportunity to start again. Her mother moved in with the bar owner; Megan moved in with Jak.
Jak, dark-haired and dark-eyed, was attentive and kind at first, despite the language barrier which meant that neither of them could communicate beyond a few words. By her own admission, Megan was deeply naive. I loved him and he loved me pretty much instantly. He was charming, really. He started talking about how his mother was ill with cancer and how the family needed more money for treatment. He told Megan he dreamed of having children with her, of living in a nice, big house in the future.
Megan agreed, even though it meant leaving her mother behind. A man opened the door to her, took her into a small, windowless room with a single bed. At the foot of the bed was a video camera mounted on a tripod. He was filming it and I was paralysed, because I was really shocked. As Megan was leaving, she saw the cardboard box she had been asked to deliver contained several packets of condoms.
It was the first time she had ever had sex. What, I wonder, would the Megan sitting in front of me today say to that scared teenage version of herself if she had the chance? He made her think that escort work was the only way to raise enough money for them to be together. He would shower her with affection one minute and, the next, humiliate her in public. If she said she wanted to stop, he would threaten to kill her mother. Gradually her confidence was eroded to the point of no return. She was utterly reliant on Jak and his network of underworld associates for everything: clothes, food, transport.
On one particular night, she says she had sex with men before being violently sick. The owner of that brothel closed up early when he saw how ill she was. She was in a mental fog for much of it. She was ill — underweight and exhausted. She contracted syphilis and salmonella six times.
And if she misbehaved, there was violent retribution — on one occasion, she was punched in the face by Jak and dragged across the floor by the roof of her mouth. At some point, Jak left and handed her over to another pimp called Christoph, who moved her around wherever the work might be — from hotel to brothel to private apartment. She was also ashamed. It is really powerful. Robotic is the right word. This seems incredible, especially when Megan writes in the book that she helped a Polish girl escape by asking a rich client to book her a plane ticket back home.
She says it simply never occurred to her to do the same for herself. Her own sense of worth had been diminished to such an extent that she no longer knew her own mind. And she was still only a teenager. She had been given no chance to grow into an adult capable of making her own decisions. Megan was picked up a few times by the police, but was too frightened to tell them the truth in case they were in league with her abusers.
Eventually she suffered a psychotic episode and was sectioned in a Greek hospital for three months. Cocooned from the outside world, she began to feel safe enough to confide in some of the staff about what had happened to her. The two were reunited shortly afterwards. What was that like? I was emotional. Megan and her mother returned to the UK.
A doctor put her on Prozac. For a long time she struggled with everyday existence. She was scared of crowds. She jumped at loud noises. She turned to alcohol as a crutch. She spent too much money and had a series of bad relationships. I struggle to say no to sex because I thought that was all men wanted. I actually hate that. Eventually she found the confidence to get a job as a shop assistant, and she confided some of her story to a colleague, who notified an anti-trafficking charity.
The charity got in touch with Megan. Within days she was in a safe house in London. Today Megan is cautiously rebuilding her life. She has ambitions to set up a charity of her own to help trafficking victims like herself. She is in therapy and has been alcohol-free for seven months. She has a group of trusted friends, made through her local church, and she is rebuilding her relationship with her mother. There is a long pause. I felt trained into it. It is only recently that she has finally felt free from that mental imprisonment.
And yet the young woman in front of me is still clearly damaged, existing at one defensive remove from her own past. I ask Megan to try to describe herself in three words. She finds this difficult. Could that be one? I nod. The Observer Human trafficking. I was sold into sexual slavery. Elizabeth Day. Sun 18 Jan Reuse this content.Looking for a sex slave
email: [email protected] - phone:(933) 855-7111 x 6804
I was sold into sexual slavery