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Survivors: Life Beyond Exploitation

At Causeway we have supported thousands of people who have experienced exploitation to get their lives back on track.

Sometimes they come to us hours or days after being rescued, sometimes it can be months or even years before they tell anyone what happened to them, and are referred for support.

Everybody’s journey is different, but the one thing everyone agrees on - they are not what happened to them. Their abuse or trauma does not define them.

They are people first, survivors second, and each one has goals, hopes, and dreams for a future that goes beyond recovering from the shadow of modern slavery.

Our campaign, Survivors: Life Beyond Exploitation, was created to mark Anti-Slavery Day on Wednesday 18th October 2023. As part of the campaign we spoke to three people who are using their own experiences to raise awareness of modern slavery and trafficking, support others going through the same thing, and show that there is life beyond exploitation.

Ilja, Sosa, and Emily* do not know each other, but they are connected by the similar experiences of being groomed, traumatised, or let down as children by older adults in their lives. It was these early experiences that increased their vulnerability to exploitation, and what is now the driving force behind their shared desire to protect other young people from exploitation.


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Ilja's story
A troubled childhood led to Ilja moving into the care system. At 17 she was given social housing, but then left to fend for herself. She was targeted by criminal gangs who took over her flat, then forced her into years of violent sexual exploitation that saw her moved around Europe, terrorised, assaulted, and in constant fear for her life. Decades later she is now a successful businesswoman and desperate to help other young women avoid the pain and abuse she went through.
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Sosa's story
Sosa was nine when he was taken into care following violence in his childhood. But it was here that he was groomed into an inner city gang that encouraged him to deal drugs and carry weapons for older members. In his desire to belong, his life descended into chaos and danger. He was threatened with a gun aged 11, given his own gun aged 12, and by 13 found himself in a young offender’s institution. He is now studying for a criminology degree and is a keen advocate for other young people like him who are victims of trauma and poverty, and who are vulnerable to criminal exploitation.
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Emily's story
Emily* was 11 when an adult neighbour persuaded her to deal drugs for him. She was soon expelled, and without the routine and anchor of school, found herself alone for many hours of the day, and vulnerable to the attention of criminal gangs and drug dealers. She went on experience a decade of criminal and sexual exploitation, where fear and drug abuse kept her in the clutches of traffickers who moved her, and other young girls, around the UK for sex. Ten years later, Emily is living quietly with her daughter, and is passionate about improving services and outcomes for other young people vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking.