A rape victim who was trafficked across the country has accused the Home Secretary of overseeing a system that “routinely let vulnerable people down”, according to a letter shared by the shadow safeguarding minister.
Following the Government’s announcement of plans to tackle grooming gangs, Labour MP Jess Phillips said the person had waited 562 days for the Home Office to recognise she was a victim and was still not offered safe accommodation.
According to a letter shared by Ms Phillips on Twitter, the victim outlined in horrific detail how she was exploited from the age of 13 and “sold from one gang to another” who would “laugh at how they continued getting away with what they were doing”.
She accused Suella Braverman of offering statements that were “easy to make” while overseeing a system that had failed to protect victims of sexual exploitation.
The victim questioned how the measures announced by the Government on Monday, such as mandatory reporting of child abuse, would work within the context of a system with “so many flaws”.
Detailing her own experience, she said she was denied a place in a safe house because she was a British citizen and was forced to return to other accommodation before being assaulted again.
Extracts of the letter shared by Ms Phillips read: “Dear Suella Braverman, Following on from your statement on the 2nd of April 2023, I am writing this letter as a victim who has been let down by countless professionals and services but worryingly the Home Office itself.
“I will begin by providing a summary of my experiences. I was groomed at the age of 13 and this then led on to me experiencing sexual and criminal exploitation for over a decade, whereby I was trafficked all-round the country and sold from one gang to another. There were countless times where I was gang-raped, injected with heroin and left black and blue.
“I was exposed to serious and organised crime and my perpetrators would laugh at how they continued getting away with what they were doing to me and so many other girls. I did not see any of my family for years and my childhood and early adulthood was stolen away from me. Whilst I acknowledge your statement that you vow to stamp out child grooming gangs, that is a very easy statement to make.
“Victims of this crime all around the country have heard it all before. Although you’ve announced new measures to tackle the issue, it makes me question how is this achievable when there are so many flaws in the systems already in place, such as The National Referral Mechanism (NRM)?”
The victim had to wait more than a year to get a conclusive grounds decision – a decision by an authority as to whether a person is a victim of slavery or human trafficking – and continued to be exploited during that time, according to the extracts shared by Ms Phillips.
The letter went on: “Nearly a year ago I was sitting in a hotel paid for by the police after I’d been physically and sexually assaulted.
“My accommodation was not safe and I had requested a safe house. After a lot of back and forth I was eventually told by someone from The Salvation Army, the Home Office contactor for NRM services, that a safe house was not an option as I was a British national and that there were no other appropriate housing options.
“I had to return to unsafe accommodation to then be raped and physically assaulted again. As you have overseen a system that has routinely let vulnerable people down I would like to know what action has or is going to be taken to improve?”
The victim also touched on the difficulties faced when accessing mental health support and legal challenges before ending by asking Ms Braverman to “reflect on an example of someone who has experienced the failures of the Home Office”.
Ms Phillips warned that the Government’s intervention on Monday would be “nothing but noise” without wider measures to improve the system for identifying and referring victims of trafficking.
She said she would be asking Ms Braverman for a meeting regarding the letter.
The Home Office did not comment on the victim’s case but a spokesperson said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime and we remain committed to stamping it out. We provide support to thousands of victims each year.
“This is why we are introducing new measures. We have updated our guidance for case workers, so it is clear that when reviewing a referral, there should be objective evidence of modern slavery. This will speed up decision making by stopping abuse and making sure genuine victims get the support they need.”
A Salvation Army spokesperson said: “The details of this young woman’s exploitation are a stark reminder that UK citizens are also at risk of being trapped in modern slavery. Sadly, we see many women every year who have endured years of sexual exploitation and violence enter our services in very vulnerable states and with complex needs.
“It’s important to stress that when victims of modern slavery are referred to us, we see the person and their need first and foremost. We can categorically state that we never make service allocation decisions based on a person’s nationality.
“Sadly, survivors of modern slavery, including British people, are having to join long queues, along with all other vulnerable adults, when it comes to important entitlements like housing and mental health support.
“We do not have the specifics of this case, but often leaving an area can complicate or delay access to these services, but staff will advocate for them throughout these processes.”