City Hearts support sexual exploitation survivors following police raids

Police who conducted raids on Sheffield addresses believed to be housing victims of Human Trafficking and sexual exploitation, were assisted by City Hearts staff who were on hand to offer support to the survivors.

Two men and three women were arrested by South Yorkshire Police on Wednesday on suspicion of ‘Human Trafficking of females for the purposes of Sexual Exploitation, and Controlling Prostitution.’

Detective Inspector James Smith, said: “We suspect that a number of women identified during our investigation were brought in to the country for the sole purpose of exploitation, and it’s now our absolute priority to ensure they are removed from harm, safeguarded, and receive the specialist long-term support they need.”

A number of the women found in the raids were offered support by Sheffield based City Hearts staff, Hope Johnson and Jess Bramhall (pictured above).

“We were there to advocate for the women and to help give a trauma informed approach to police,” said Hope.

“We made sure the women knew we weren’t police, and told them what support was available to them, such as entering the NRM (Government support system for Modern Slavery survivors).

“Sometimes the police are very quick to just try and get information out of the women,” Hope added. “But we were there to make sure they thought of their needs as well. One of the women was starving and needed food.”

Hope and Jess say the women they spoke to through an interpreter knew no English, despite having been in the country for years, which indicates a high level of isolation from society.

“The woman I spoke to came to the UK thinking she was here for a better life,” said Jess. “But when she arrived she was locked in a flat. Her exploiters told her that if she complained to the police they would kill her child back in her home country. Luckily she agreed to enter the NRM.”

Some of the women found at the addresses refused the offer of support, either due to mistrust of British authorities, fear of their exploiters, or lack of knowledge around help available.

“I hope that these raids and offers of help have shown them, that even if they refuse help today, there’s support out there in the future if they need it,” said Hope. “We told them we can help them integrate into British society, we can help them open bank accounts, and learn English.”

“I also hope this story helps highlight to people that it’s happening in their town,” added Jess. “Some of the addresses where the police made the arrests, I walk past all the time!”

Detective Chief Inspector Anna Sedgwick, added: “Tackling modern slavery is a priority for South Yorkshire Police and we will use all of the means at our disposal to identify and apprehend those who seek to enslave others.

“I would also urge people to display social and ethical awareness about what is happening in their communities, and be vigilant around modern slavery. You are our eyes and ears and best placed to spot those who may be trapped in a situation where they are being exploited.”

If you have any information surrounding today’s operation, or have concerns about people being exploited in any way, please report this to police either online, through live chat or by calling 101. Reports can also be made to the Modern Slavery Helpline by calling 08000 121 700.