|| 'I was raped and beaten. I lost the will to run away'|
By David Harrison|
Irina Valinsky perches on the edge of her bed in a north London
flat and puffs anxiously on a cigarette. "Twenty-five to 30 a day," she
says nervously. The 21-year-old Lithuanian is not answering a question
about her tobacco habit, but about the average number of men she is
forced to have sex with every day.
Working at two flats and a "massage parlour" six days a week, she
charges £150-£400, depending on the time and services supplied - but
has to hand over almost all the money to her Russian pimp.
She is one of thousands of vulnerable young girls who have been
trafficked to Britain in the past few years from Eastern Europe,
beaten, raped and coerced into a life of sexual slavery. Last week, in
the Sunday Telegraph, I reported on how I was offered the chance to buy
a Romanian woman for £1,300.
Irina is typical of many of the girls brought to Britain from countries
such as Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, Albania and Russia.
The explosion in trafficking has been fuelled by the expansion of the
European Union - many Eastern Europeans no longer need visas for
Britain - falling travel costs, criminal gangs exploiting any
opportunity to make big money, and a seemingly limitless demand.
Up to 6,000 women are estimated to have been trafficked into Britain in
the past few years. About 1,500 traffickers were arrested last year and
the Government and police are drawing up urgent measures to combat this
relatively new crime.
"There's always been some sex trafficking," said one Scotland Yard
detective, "but the trickle has become a tide." More than 80 per cent
of "off-street" prostitutes in London are now foreigners, mostly from
Eastern Europe, compared with less than 20 per cent 10 years ago,
according to recent research.
Like most trafficked women, Irina was duped into coming to Britain and
held under threat of violence to her and her family. She was "excited"
when she landed a job as a waitress in London, after replying to a
newspaper advertisement in Vilnius.
But, once in England, she was introduced to an Albanian who took her
passport and said he had paid £4,000 for her - and that now she would
be working for him as a prostitute until she had paid it all back.
"That first night he raped me, to break me in," she said. "I thought
about escaping but he never let me out of his sight. He hit me in the
face and his friends raped me. I lost the will to run away." After a
year Irina was sold to her current pimp.
The arrival of the girls from Eastern Europe has coincided with - and
fuelled - a disturbing expansion of the sex industry. Most end up in
the "off-street" sector: massage parlours, saunas, brothels, private
flats, and, increasingly, lap-dancing and other "gentlemen's clubs".
They are frequently sold on several times.
"The traffickers and pimps rule by fear," says Denise Marshall who runs
the Poppy Project, Britain's only refuge for women who escape from
their sadistic controllers. "The girls are totally traumatised. It can
take years for them to get back to anything resembling a normal life.
"These girls are victims but are too often dismissed as prostitutes and illegal immigrants."
Trafficking is "easy money" for criminals, says Ms Marshall. "Why
should they risk carrying a bag of heroin into Britain when they can
buy two girls, bring them in legally on the Eurostar and get their
money back in a week?"
The two-year-old Poppy Project, based in south London, is funded by the
Home Office. It can house 25 girls and is full. The girls who make it
to the shelter, usually after a referral from the police, have all
experienced horrific abuse. Anna, a Ukrainian in her twenties, was
raped at an early age and then beaten and gang-raped regularly, before
being trafficked to Britain to work as a prostitute. Maria, a Moldovan
was trafficked to London, beaten, raped, and sold as a prostitute three
The Government is using the EU presidency to draw up a Europe-wide
anti-trafficking "action plan" and will set up an organised crime
agency in April next year. "The fact that so many women are being
trafficked against their will has added a shocking new dimension to
prostitution," said Paul Goggins, the Home Office minister for serious
Senior police officers want to see a new offence introduced for men who
use trafficked women as prostitutes and say local authorities should
close down saunas and massage parlours that offer sexual services.
Det Chief Supt Steve Kupis, the head of Operation Maxim which fights
organised immigration crime in London, said: "Trafficking women into
prostitution is modern-day slavery."
There have been successes. Last month, two men were jailed for a total
of 36 years in Sheffield for auctioning two Lithuanian girls for £3,000
each at a coffee shop in Gatwick. Two weeks ago, two Moldovans were
jailed for bringing 600 women into Britain illegally and forcing them
into prostitution. On Friday at Cardiff Crown Court, a 21-year-old
Lithuanian claimed that she was tricked into coming to Britain for a
better life only to be sold into prostitution for £5,000 to three
Back at her flat Irina stubs out another cigarette. I ask her what
would it take for her to flee this life of sexual servitude. She stares
at a kitsch painting of a child on the wall and says, wearily: "I don't
know. It is dangerous. They would get me or my family. What else could
I do? Where could I go?"
• Some names have been changed
| myth-heard by men|
|What wilt thou that I say more oh thou poore married man...A woman which is faire is showe is foule in condition, she is like unto a glowworme which is bright in the hedge and black in the hand; in the greenest grasse lyeth hid greatest Serpents: painted pottes commonly holde deadly poyson: and in the clearest water the ugliest Tode, and the fairest woman hath some filthiness in hir. -Joseph Swetnam, The Arraignment of Lewde, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women (1615)|
| ms-heard by women|
|I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit the fashion of the time. -Lillian Hellman|
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