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Case Study – Shanna

A 20 year old woman from a war-torn country in South Asia was captured during an attack on her village.  She was abducted and taken from her family and over a period of time she was trafficked through Europe for sexual exploitation.  She believes she was trafficked through major cities including Istanbul and Athens.

 She was bought and sold to many different men through her journey.  She cannot remember whether she came to Northern Ireland via the South of Ireland but only remembered that she travelled on a boat and a train.  When she arrived in Northern Ireland she thought she was in America.

Shanna (not the woman’s real name) spoke of her journey after a while and told of the horrendous ordeals she had experienced.  She talked of meeting other girls on her journey but did not get to know them well as they were moved on.  She remembers getting off a train and told to wait at a particular place and noticed that there were three other girls waiting like her.  It transpired that they were all brought to the same house.   Shanna explained that the room was sparsely furnished and sometimes up to 15 men subjected her to sexual violence within one day.  After about 10 days, the man who was keeping her a prisoner in the house, got very drunk and fell asleep and Shanna took the opportunity to escape through a small window.  She approached a passer-by, who saw that she was very distressed and brought her to the nearest police station.  The ordeal was made much worse because she was unaware of where she was and was unable to speak the language. The police, through an interpreter, heard her story and brought her to Women’s Aid.  The investigations regarding her allegations of trafficking began with further interviews by police, UKBA and a solicitor.  Shanna also needed to see a doctor and had to be medically examined. 

Shanna was very distrusting of everyone, especially of authorities, as she came from a country where she experienced corruption from officials. The language barrier made it difficult for Women’s Aid support workers to help Shanna.  Language Line was used to explain the practical issues of her basic needs.  For example, where she would sleep, food, toiletries etc, and to answer any questions she had.  However, it was impossible to address her emotional needs at this time.  She had no contact with anyone in the country and was very isolated.  Eventually, her relationship with her keyworker developed.  It took nearly six months before she felt safe enough to open up.  She disclosed her trafficking journey throughout Europe and the abuse she was subjected to.