SOPHIE HAYES, A SURVIVOR'S STORY
This is Sophie’s story of abuse, both mental and physical, but most importantly, her story is of courage and survival.
Sophie was trafficked from the UK to Italy for sex. The person who trafficked her wasn’t a stranger; he was her best friend. Sophie had known her abuser for five years. She’d met him in the north of England. and spent five years building what Sophie thought to be a trusting relationship. Later, as it transpired, this was a period to groom her, to discover personal details that would later be used to trap and manipulate her.
This man seized Sophie’s passport and made threats to her and her family. He forced her onto the streets in Italy to sell her body for sex. For six months, seven days a week, this was Sophie’s life. A life of abuse, sexual exploitation, manipulation, sleep deprivation and starvation. In other words, not a life at all.
“Men were willing to pay me 20 to 30 euros ($27 to $40) for sex. Doctors, lawyers, police officers, businessmen would line up five or six deep on weekend nights at the street corner, waiting to pay for a 10- to 15-minute sexual encounter in their cars, I would hop out of one and into the next.”
After six months of mental and physical abuse Sophie stumbled into a hospital, sick and exhausted. Here, she found the courage to call her mother. And that moment was the beginning of the end of her ordeal. The end of an indescribable time in Sophie’s life and the start of recovery.
The start of Sophie Hayes Foundation
“Since my ordeal, I have been determined to turn the experience into a positive one. Everyone deserves freedom and their basic human rights, and although he stole my freedom, I am determined to do everything in my power to make a difference and share a story of hope to others.”
Watch my love story here and see how love is not shown by force and violence*
*Caution viewers may find the content of this video, distressing
CODE WORDS SAVE LIVES
Sophie’s mother told her that if she was ever in trouble but couldn’t talk, she should ask her, “how is Aunt Linda?”.
When they created this, they never thought they would have to use it, but this simple sentence would help Sophie to freedom.
Today, we encourage you to have a conversation with your father, mother, brothers, sisters or someone you would trust your life with and create your own "CODEWORD OR SENTENCE."
THREE STEPS TO PEACE OF MIND
1. Start the conversation about safety
2. Agree a simple and memorable sentence
3. Have peace of mind that if you ever find yourself in a position when you can’t talk but you need help you can use your code sentence. Agree a simple code word or sentence, encourage others to do the same – through conversation, by email, through your social media channels.