Trafficked – My Story by Sophie Hayes

Another heart-wrenching book. Makes me wonder why I read such stuff, and then reminds me that hopefully books like this will make me,at the very least, more vigilant and aware of things that could go wrong.

The true story of a British girl forced into the sex trade.

Sophie grew up in a troubled house. Her father had no love for his children, but her mother more than made up for her husband’s lack of interest. Her father’s disinterest and her parent’s eventual separation took a toll on her and it took her a while to come to trust men.

She started working, and was leading a regular life in Leeds, when Kas came into her life. He came as a friend, and stayed her friend for a while, even when he was away in another country. He would call and talk to her and she came to rely on him for a shoulder to cry on, for helpful advise, everything we would turn to our friends for.

At a stage when things weren’t working out for her, Kas suggested that she come over to Italy for a short holiday. Arriving in Italy, everything seemed perfect. Kas was gentle, caring, as he always was.

At the end of her break, when she was about to return to England, everything changed. Kas changed from the caring, gentle man, to a controlling person. He told her that he was in debt and she would have to help him – because he loved her, and that was the least she could do. She was supposed to sell her body to earn the money for Kas. She was told that if she tried to run away, her siblings back in England would pay the price, and he knew where they lived. He asked her to call home and tell her mum that she had decided to stay on in Italy. On hearing this, her mother told her that if she ever needed help, all she needed to say was ‘How’s Aunt Linda?’. That was to be her code words.

Terrified of Kas, Sophie worked the streets, braving dangers, believing that she could do nothing to escape. She got punched, hit , abused by Kas when she tried to protest. All the while, trying to remain cheerful whenever she called her family, so that they did not get suspicious. She lived in her own personal hell, not knowing who to reach out for help until she lands up in hospital and gets to contact her mother and asked after Aunt Linda.

Her mother and step-dad came to Italy and rescued her, but it took her a long while to feel safe. She was still terrified that Kas would follow her. She was right – he did come after her. Eventually he did get captured by the police. Even after his capture, Sophie’s horror was far from over. It took her a while to overcome what she went through.

It was a shocking, stomach churning read. Drives home the fact that it is indeed very easy for a person to get trapped into a situation like this. And in an abusive situation, the victim loses the will to fight back, and starts believing everything that the abuser says. Sophie was a regular middle class, educated girl, working in a good job, and yet, her emotional baggage made her vulnerable to Kas, who took full advantage of her situation. The assumption that trafficking mainly happens to poorer people in poorer countries is broken by Sophie’s story.

I have to say, I have immense respect for Sophie to have the courage and determination to overcome all that she faced and publicly talk about it. It took her five years before she felt safe enough to talk about her story. Reading her story was sickening enough, so I can’t even imagine how painful it must have been for her to relive it all for the book, but hopefully her story will make people aware of how vulnerable our own loved ones could be, and maybe watch out.

A heart-breaking story, one that makes you cry, but one, that I feel needs to be read. Sophie has set up a foundation – The Sophie Hayes Foundation raise awareness of human trafficking and modern day slavery. As they have mentioned, on the website,

Sophie’s story is a stark reminder that trafficking is not something that happens far away to someone else.  It happens everywhere.  Sophie is someone’s sister, she was one of the girls from your school, she is someone from your work.  Sophie could be you.

That is why, I feel, it is a book that needs to be read.