Once again I found myself talking about some of my cases recently. One that always stays with me is Operation SHAWM.
The two Detectives on my team, Jim and Fiona, were Commended for their great work. I initially met with these ladies and helped them empower themselves.
Sorry if you have read this before but I read it again today and as always it had a profound effect on me.
She was a very brave girl. These are here real words!
To the extent that she had imagined her future at all, she saw herself as something akin to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. So she applied, and before she had a moment to reconsider, was booked on to a flight to England.
When she arrived she was terrified, repulsed by the work, abused and then forced to continue against her will. She also discovered 27-year-old Natalia, a mother of two from Hungary who’d been tricked into coming to the UK, had her passport seized and was locked away with no money at all.
Julianna soon realised her promised riches would never come, that she too had been trapped. After earning the trust of her employers she was given the keys to the flat and freed herself, Natalia and another sex worker, Rami.
Last week, thanks to the detailed diary she kept, her traffickers – Andrea “Betty” Novak and Joszef Budai – were sent to jail for eight years each. At the same time, the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking team – which gathered the vital evidence that jailed the traffickers – was shut down due to budget cuts.
This is the story of Julianna’s ordeal in her own words.
The names of victims have been changed
“It all happened so quickly. After I replied to the advert Betty contacted me straight away and talked me through it. Before I knew it she’d bought the plane ticket and that was that.
I knew when I came what it was all about; that it was erotic work to give sexual services to men, and I thought I’d be able to do it. But I had no idea what it would be like. I had never done this sort of work before, and Betty knew that when she persuaded me to come to the UK.
I thought it would enable me to fulfil my dreams and that I would be able to cope. I was wrong.
Tuesday, 13 April 2009, London
Well now! I am here. I don’t really know what to say. The three weeks will pass. I don’t care how it will be. I won’t be nervous and I won’t be afraid. I WILL NOT BACK OUT!! And I won’t be afraid of the fact that things are going the way I have decided they will go. I do this for my freedom.
According to Seneca, freedom is not when you do what you want. Freedom is when you don’t do things you don’t want. And he is right. I do this to achieve my dreams, not for the money. Even so, the money leads to my dreams.
I lived in respectable poverty, and it was not unbearable. But it deprived me of a lot of things. I am not prepared to tolerate it any more! I want these things! I want to fight for my dreams and I have no choice in the weapons.
I have just remembered the girls back home. My lies to them about what I am doing are tearing my heart apart. If they are really my friends they will stay with me no matter what, but I am afraid it will change what they think of me. If only they knew that I am the same person they love, honestly I am. This is not affecting me, and my personality is untouched. Agi knows, I told her and I have noticed that she looks at me differently. Even so, she told me that she is proud of me and there for me. She is not proud of me because she has a whore for a friend. “What an achievement!” No, she is proud of me because I am so determined and I make this SACRIFICE for my dreams.
Wednesday, 15 April
To write, or not to write … I had my first guest. I cannot put my feelings into words. I only know that I am hurting. And I am feeling sick. Now, immediately, I would get on the first plane to go home. I would forget the whole thing. Just one bad dream…
When the phone starts ringing it means the client is coming. I am ageing fast with these minutes and my hair is turning grey. I hate men more as every minute passes. When God created man he wasn’t concentrating on it properly. I bet 95 per cent of the male population of London goes out with whores. And they are so sick! Unbelievable!
I have to say my first guy was quite nice, not an Adonis but he told me what I was doing wrong, how I was putting on the condom. Maybe it didn’t help that my hands were shaking and swinging around. But I am not shaking any more and I am not nervous. It would be better for me if they would come one after the other. Then I would not think about things and I would not write so much. I would be asleep while they were on top of me. At the moment let’s leave it this way, that I am the Pretty Woman! Richard Gere hasn’t arrived yet. I am really tired. I should sleep while I have time.
Everything will be OK, and when I go home I will buy my motorbike and I will take my driving test. I can pay for my education as well. But no matter how badly I am trying to explain this to myself it doesn’t make me feel any better, and I do not feel it was worth it.
Thursday, 16 April
The clients are coming and going. I am totally drunk all the time. I don’t eat, but drink, yes! Let me introduce you to my new best friends: Ouzo, Rosé (or any wine), Palinka, Vodka. I can’t sleep. I cry every morning like someone fearing they would be beaten up. It has become so usual now I don’t even notice it. I really miss Mum, Dad and Nan. I cry and beg for them every morning.
My stomach is not upset any more about the next client’s arrival, I just don’t want to do it, but this is not about what I want. I am afraid of the weekend. They say it is like a Russian invasion. I had my first shared client with Rami, it lasted for an hour. The one before him lasted for half an hour. I struggled to kick him out. He wanted me so badly that he did not want to understand that I had another client waiting for me. We managed to get rid of him, thank God.
I like to work with Rami. We can help each other and it is much better because it takes some weight off me. She is 19 like me; she started this when she was 16 and left school early. She says she doesn’t like facing the man so he can’t see her crying while she is having sex.
I wonder what will happen to her in 10 years’ time but really it’s not my problem.
I have to try to enjoy it otherwise it is unbelievably painful. I do not need to explain how bad that feels! This room always smells of men, you can’t get rid of the smell. You can’t possibly imagine the way I feel now; my tears are falling. I try not to cry, but it hurts too much. All I want is to go home.
Friday, 17 April
HANDCUFFS???!!! You should have seen my face when Betty told me. She wanted to put a pink one on me. I refused but they did not care, they said I looked cute to them. Oh, I think I will throw up. I can only laugh about it all in my agony. I can feel my brain functions slowly stopping. Maybe my IQ will drop back down to a plant’s level. It would do me a favour because in these kinds of situations it is a burden if you are an intelligent women like I am.
A pink dolly and a secretary outfit. I will not add anything to this so you can laugh.
They give me a role of the dominator. This is it! This is how I will earn my money; by beating these bastards up. So God still exists.
This is my new world: the accoutrements of sex and stilettos with 30cm glass heels. I cannot even stand in them, let alone walk. Luckily (!) they have assured me that I only had to lie down in them. Isn’t it great!
Yesterday, my eyes were red raw from crying and I was shaking. There was a porn king here. I don’t really want to write about it. Then a horrible man came for half an hour. I told him I did not want to do the sort of sex he wanted. I told him it was painful but he did not want to listen. My tears were falling as I was lying there. Then he left. Betty [Andrea Novak] was preaching to me for an hour, then I went to sleep. I fell asleep like a clock when you take the batteries out. Since I have been here I have lost 12lbs in three days.
Betty just nicked my whole wages off me, £420. I had £40 left but I need that for my plane ticket back so I have nothing.
Poor Natalia, they make out that she is evil and she is not. They don’t let her out; they don’t let her go home; they don’t even pay her. She is a nice girl and these bitches are maltreating her because their souls are rotten. They would kill their own mother not for £20 but for 20 pence. Natalia is 27 years old and has two children. Betty only has to click her fingers and spits chewing gum into her hand to throw it. I can’t imagine that there are any others in this world like these revolting human beings.
Saturday, 18 April
Betty is basically a pimp, my pimp among others. She is really cross with me because I am not crying any more, I can sleep well and in general I pull myself together. She accused me of taking Xanax [tablets] and I can’t prove her wrong. Well, I presume it is suspicious that simply my willpower was enough. I am happy because I know there are only two weeks and two days to go and I will be at home.
Sunday, 19 April
The first guest of the day departed. He had an extraordinary sexual appetite, and what he did made me nauseous and want to vomit. Yuck, it’s gross. These fucking customers bidding down on the prices, they want us for free. This is not a charity!
Natalia has just said that she will escape tonight and asked me to go with her. I haven’t achieved my goals yet. No matter what happens I cannot give up now halfway to the finish line.
We are trying to convince ourselves that this is not a prison, but of course it is. I am still such a child, and I will remain one, no matter what I do. This world is so contemptible. And this place is filthy. What we do is filthy. Life means two weeks now. Two more weeks in this Hell.
Girls! You, who plump for this, DON’T DO IT! Money, success, riches… illusions! You are greedy and blind. You may have to be born to do it, I don’t really know. But what I know is that to sell one’s body is the lowest form of existence. The comfort of money only gives an illusion of happiness for a little while.
Monday, 20 April
When you are trying to calculate how many men you have sex with, the result is irrational, scary and a waste of time anyway. I could describe it as something like trying to add up how many times you breathe in your life. The best thing is not to remember. No matter how powerful your memories are.
I went into Rami’s room at 11 o’clock to wake her up and I could see her sniffing lines of powder up from a CD case using a pink straw. I think I will get something like this. Betty took Rami’s phone yesterday. She said that we are working behind her back; of course it wasn’t true.
Natalia opened the door on me a minute ago, and I nearly swallowed my notebook. I should not write. I am afraid to write. I have to hide my notes all the time, because if they found it, they would cut my throat and stuff me into the cupboard next to the vacuum cleaner. Natalia reassured me that they would not keep my body here, because of the guests, but they would dump it into the Thames. We had a good laugh, but this is not a game. I couldn’t imagine this world, but now I am in it, breathing its heavy air. And it is different. Every move I make now I betray myself, it is not me any more, it is not what I would usually do. It is the action of another person. A whore.
Please God, not any more of them today … I would really like to have a rest now. I am hurting inside. I mean my womb, all my female organs. I don’t really understand how the girls put up with it …
I wake up to the sound of the seagulls every morning. I look out of my window and I can see them flying above the houses. This is the first time I have seen a real-life seagull in the wild flying around. At least that’s something.
Tuesday, 21 April
It is 9 o’clock at night and I am organising the escape. A good friend of mine in Hungary has a twin – Krisztina – who lives in Bristol. She’s been there for four years and she said before I came out that if there was any need for help then I should contact her. When I rang her up I said, that’s it, we have to get us all out.
Originally Betty and her boyfriend were living in the house with us, but I pretended to be a very good girl and soon they left Rami in charge. They still kept a very tight rein, but when Rami decided to go home, there was no alternative but to give me the key to the house because they thought they’d got to know me and that I was settled.
Rami assured me that they would not leave my pictures on the internet after I left and she said they won’t look for me at home because they are not powerful enough to do so. Betty hasn’t got any clearance in the country and the internet site where my pictures were can only be seen from London. They won’t look for me at the airport or the embassy either. Betty got into trouble back home so she cannot go back.
We have agreed that we are going to take the telly – we can’t possibly leave it here. Anyway, they have bought everything out of our wages. We will empty the house nicely so we can sell it and get some money for it.
In a few months’ time, we will sit down together and laugh at the whole thing. I am not nervous about this, all three of us are going to escape tonight. I can’t wait to sit on the plane home. I hope my friends can come and pick us up by car because we can’t take the telly otherwise. I was thinking about taking the fridge as well, really we need a van to take the whole house. I am sure that the microwave is coming. I made about £1,000 for them… out of that amount I only received £300.
Wednesday, 22 April
Krisztina rang me and she said she could pick us up by car at 9am. It felt like winning the jackpot. I could feel something wasn’t right and there is something wrong with this, no matter how hard I tried to look at things logically. Rami was packing, Natalia was very nervous and I was shaking.
I was expecting a van but it was a sports car, though we managed to put a three-bedroom flat in there. It was very exciting – freedom was just an arm’s length away. I still wasn’t sure about my decision. But no, my senses are right, this wasn’t normal.
I was troubled because of the money, I was disappointed that I am free but poor and miles away from getting my motorbike.
I felt broken and ill. While I was among the girls, things like this were considered normal, it wasn’t a problem that I was doing that kind of thing, we were all the same. We stopped at Asda to get some shopping. As we were walking up and down the aisles I could feel that people were looking at me because everyone knew that I was just a whore. I wasn’t dressed like one. I looked like just any other ordinary girl, but still this feeling was torturing me.
I cried a little on the way to Bristol, I had no power over my tears but no one noticed, it was a terrible feeling. I was waiting for all this to end, but now I know there will never be an end to this because it will always be in my memories.”
I hope you got to the end. My team is still in contact with these survivors (even though they now work in other crime area’s when the Human Trafficking Team was closed down) and they are attempting to live normal lives.
I published this again because I think it is important that we understand exactly how easy it is to manipulate and extort vulnerable persons.
No one seems to ask sex workers to outline exactly how they first came to be doing this great job!