I was born in Nigeria and lived with my father and step mother. Growing up, my father was sick and my step mother kept me enslaved because I was the result of my father’s affair with another woman. I was told that I was cursed and this was the reason for my father being sick. My life was regularly threatened. This is my story.
One day I ran away to my father’s friend’s house where I stayed for a few days. I heard them talking about my scars and how they showed that I was cursed. I knew I could not stay with them any longer, so I returned home. When I did, I was starved, beaten and abused badly by my step mother. After this, my father died.
One day, my step mother poisoned and killed our neighbour’s dog. She said she would tell them I had done it and that if I did not leave, she would do the same to me.
I ran away again in fear of my life and became homeless, staying under counters in market stalls and eating rotten food. It was there that I met a lady who took me in and looked after me. This was the first time I had experienced love and kindness. I was now a teenager and spent my time cleaning the house of my new found ‘Auntie’. She asked me about my hopes for the future and I said I’d like to become a doctor. She said she would help me and would take me to the UK for training. Before we left, she made me swear an oath that I would repay all the costs of the documents, travel and living when we arrived.
When I did, I was starved, beaten and abused badly by my step mother. After this, my father died.
I was taken to the North of England and the ‘repayments’ began when I was forced to sleep with a man who came to the house. This was arranged by my Auntie and she took a payment. Men continued to come regularly to the house to sleep with me.
I asked my Auntie when I would be able to start training to become a doctor, but she told me this was now my life. The house was always full of food. It was comfortable. But this was added to my debt that I had to repay. On many occasions I became pregnant. When I did, my Auntie would give me strong medicines, along with a lot of alcohol and I would lose the baby. This procedure was added to the debt I owed. I did not understand how bad this situation was as my Auntie was the only person who had ever shown care and affection towards me.
At the age of 21, I escaped to London and I got into a relationship with a man who was controlling and emotionally abusive towards me. I became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter and a couple of years later my son. I would spend days in the house with my two young children freezing cold with no money for food. I had no choice but to sleep with men in secret in order to get enough money for food. We lived off of Weetabix as this was something we could all eat. Eventually I was thrown out of the house after the man realised I had slept with other men. My neighbour had been kind to me and told me about Women’s Aid. It was there I was referred to City Hearts as a victim of human trafficking.
I ran away again in fear of my life and became homeless, staying under counters in market stalls and eating rotten food.
When I arrived at the City Hearts safe house, I was in a dark place and I was so used to everything good in life being part of a deal; something always had to be given in return. I spent many times feeling confused as to why good things happened and I wasn’t expected to give back. I almost ran away from everything as I could not comprehend this, expecting a repayment to be required at some point soon, or to find out it was another trap.
Now, with the help of the support at City Hearts and counselling I am healing from my past and learning better coping mechanisms. I’m realising that there are good people and everything in my world is improving. I have gone from survival and just getting through each day, to LIVING! I am living my life and I am full of hope!
City Hearts have helped with reward charts and food taster sessions for my children. I am doing a childcare course, English and sewing classes and am surrounded by opportunity.
I don’t know what the future holds but I am hopeful about what that looks like for me and my family. My daughter said to me this morning, “Mummy, you’re a superwoman” and I was able to reply “yes, yes I am!”