A woman has told of her former life as a sex worker in Nottingham after being trafficked to Spain when she was just 14 years old.
Having arrived in Nottingham in 2016, the woman said she worked as a prostitute from home in the city for a few months because she ‘was already used to it’.
Looking back, she says she regrets starting it because she fell into alcoholism and drug addiction from a young age.
“I do have regrets about the moment when I first started to do this – that should have been a wake-up call for me.
“I should have called the police – I should have done something”, she added.
The former sex worker, originally from Romania, said she now wants to leave her past behind and start a new chapter of her life.
With help from POW Nottingham, a voluntary organisation supporting the rights of sex workers and those at risk of being exploited, she is now hopeful that her life might change for the better.
“Here in the UK I have my mum who is very supportive of me and is the only family member who knows about my past”, she said.
“She helps me mentally and I just feel better here.
“I do not think I would be alive right now if I chose to stay in Romania or Spain for much longer.”
It all began when she and her boyfriend, 22 at the time, went on two week holiday to Spain.
Little did she know that once she arrived there she would be forced to become a sex worker on the streets.
The sex trafficking victim, who wished to go by Latifa, has spoken in Romanian to Nottinghamshire Live, saying: “I had up to 15 clients a day.
“There were days when I would make even a 1,000 euros a day.
“I made a lot of money, because I was only a child at the time and looked different to other girls.”
“But I did not get any of it – all of that was going to my boyfriend.”
Latifa, only a child at the time, was beaten up by the trafficker many times. Sometimes the physical abuse was so serious that she would have to “drink soup through a straw”.
“He would feel bad afterwards because I could not produce as much money as before”, she said.
After countless episodes of abuse, Latifa quit her boyfriend’s ‘business’ to work on her own.
“One day I took the risk and quit.
“I left him, but continued to work in the industry.”
In the few months she had working independently, she managed to make enough money to survive in a foreign country.
But her tragic story did not end here.
After she finally managed to escape from her trafficker’s cage, she thought she had found peace in another man’s arms who she got pregnant with at 17.
“I met this Spanish guy, and we moved in together straight away,” she said.
The horror episodes of abuse she had to go through in the past continued while she was in the new relationship.
“He was taking a lot of cocaine – and it was the same story all over again.
“He was beating me when I was quite late in my pregnancy – my belly was huge.”
She left him after she found out that he was cheating on her with another woman.
“That is what hurt me the most, so I decided to come to the UK and settled down in Nottingham for a while.”
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She then got in touch with Diana Blaj, a member from POW who is specialised in working with immigrant sex workers across the country.
“They helped me a lot, I also attended some of their English classes too.”
The woman’s unbelievable past left her with a child that she has not seen in ten years and scars that will take a lifetime to heal.
“I fought over the custody of my child, but because I was only 18 at the time and did not have a job or a house on my name – I lost.
“My son is in good hands, he lives with his father’s parents and is being given the life that I could have never afforded to offer to him.
“I felt uncomfortable to reach out to him after a while, especially because his grandparents refuse to tell him about me.
“Maybe he will reach out to me himself when he grows up.”
Today, Latifa lives in Nottingham and is looking for a ‘real job’, desperately trying to erase who she used to be.
“I am still in pain because it is not easy to always think about what you have done.
“Especially since my biggest wish right now is to start a family.
“I am always terrified that they might find out about my past.
“My motherhood is basically non-existent, and I am scared to fall in love because I do not want my partner to know about my past.
“I would only let him have who I am now and who I will eventually become.
“Sooner or later they will always blame me for it because it is natural to do so.
“And many are still judging me”, she said. “Without knowing the whole story.”
Chief Inspector Natasha Todd, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “The Prostitution Task Force, who work from Radford Road Police Station, work closely with partners and the local community to address issues including the exploitation and soliciting of sex workers.
“The majority of our work is focused on education and engagement in order to address the root causes of these issues as well as safeguarding the sex workers and supporting them with the help of other agencies.
“Whether using proactive patrols or targeted engagement, we remain committed to ensuring that residents feel safe while taking proactive action against kerb-crawlers.
“Our main priority is to make Nottingham a safe place to live and work and we will always respond to community concerns.
“That is why it is really important that anyone who has any concerns around the exploitation of sex workers and kerb-crawlers reports them to Nottinghamshire Police as soon as possible on 101.”
Diana Blaj, Migrant Outreach Coordinator at POW Nottingham, added: “I know a lot of people are judging these women, without understanding what they are going through.
“POW is an organisation based on a peer-support system, and we believe in the decriminalisation of sex workers.
“People do not understand that in many cases, immigrants sex-workers are mums who are trying to provide for their families and poverty in countries like Romania leads them into doing this.”