Thursday, January 9, 2014

TRAFFICKED: My Story Of Surviving, Escaping, And Transcending Abduction Into Prostitution by Sophie Hayes

My Story Of Surviving, Escaping, And Transcending Abduction Into Prostitution
Sourcebooks; September 3, 2013; Paperback, 272 pages
Biography, memoirs, human traffick
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"It's easy to dismiss girls who work on the streets as deadbeats or drug addicts without ever thinking about why they're working as prostitutes. And the truth is that many of them have been trafficked and they work long, exhausting, miserable, soul-destroying hours for men who are cruel and violent. They're constantly afraid, not just because of what might be done to them if they don't do what they're told, but also because of the very real threats that are made against their families and the people they love...what kind of person does that to another human being?” 

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and a grave violation of human rights. An estimated 27 million people, women and children for the most part, are exploited, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery and forced labor, by means of threat, use of force, abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of power. Article no. 3 of the United Nations "Protocol To Prevent, Suppress And Punish Trafficking In Persons" couldn't be more loud and clear in its definition of this heinous crime: coercion comes in many different forms and primarily finds its strength in the position of vulnerability of those unfortunate people who fall victim of traffickers.

Trafficked is the terrifying true story of Sophie Hayes, a young, educated, British woman forced into sex trade by a man she loved and trusted. Sophie was only eighteen when she met her abductor. Kas, the young Albanian she befriended one night in a club, was the most caring and attentive guy she had ever met. Over a period of four years, he won her trust, becoming her best friend and confidant. Under the false pretense of treating her to an Italian vacation, Kas lured her out of her country and, once abroad, Sophie found out what hid behind the facade of the charming boy: Kas became abusive, he seized her belongings and travel documents, he  beat her violently and forced her to prostitute herself while threatening to harm her family back home in the UK. Terrified, tortured, humiliated,  and completely at the mercy of her abusive captor for food, clothing, and shelter, Sophie kept working on the streets, in Italy and France,  over a period of six horrifying months, constantly threatened and unable to seek help: the same police officers who should have protected her were Kas' best clients. The description of her ordeal is painfully honest and doesn't spare us the excruciating details of all the abuses she had to endure during her captivity,  including the mental condition, the psychological subjugation and deep emotional wounds caused by the abduction and exploitation.

"Part of the problem was that I couldn't seem to get past the fact that I hadn't tried to escape from Kas. Even in France, when he'd left me on my work for several days, I'd carried on working and doing all the things he'd told me to do. And although I knew that it was because of the fear he'd so carefully and deliberately instilled in me, I still felt as though I'd somehow colluded in what had happened to me - despite knowing, deep down, that nothing could have been further from the truth."

After her liberation, Sophie was determined to turn her agonizing trial into a positive experience: Kas stole her freedom, but opened the door to a future of commitment and activism for Sophie. Since her abduction and enslavement, she has intensely worked to keep modern-day slavery high on the political agenda of several countries. A best-seller in the UK, her memoir brought global attention to the prevalence of human trafficking in the First World: Sophie started a long collaboration with Stop The Traffik, attended the House Of Lords hearings, and spoke at Vatican conferences and United Nations to discuss objectives, laws, and global actions to fight this alarmingly spread and fast-growing form of organized crime. Sophie is currently working with the The Sophie Hayes Foundation, a non-profit organization named in her honor, that aims to support the victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation while raising awareness across social, business, governmental, and political communities. 

Several international laws and agreements have  significantly increased awareness and empowered governments in their global fight against exploitation and sex slavery (see the "Victims Of Trafficking And Violence Protection Act" , enacted by the United States Congress in 2000), but the goal of a world free of human trafficking remains extremely hard to achieve. Scholar Kevin Bales, author of Disposable People (University of California Press, 2004) estimates that as many as 27 million people are being forced into slavery across the globe on an annual basis, creating a revenue of more than $ 32 billion, an outrageous market value and a lucrative industry, equal to arms trafficking and second in scope only to the drug trade. The magnitude and hidden nature of this crime seem to transcend our ability to put a stop to it: very few traffickers are convicted and most of the victims are never identified. And if you think that  the crime is limited to geographical areas (Second and Third world) or to specific social strata (low income, uneducated,  minorities), think again: an  estimated 40,000 women, children, and men are forced into slavery in the United States and 83 percent of the identified victims are American-born citizens.

January is the Human Trafficking Awareness Month. For more information on initiatives that raise awareness and support victims, please visit The Sophie Hynes Foundation and Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. 

***I would like to thank Sourcebooks for providing review material in exchange for an unbiased opinion 


  1. Terrifying. What a brilliant and timely review of a book that must have been so emotionally exhausting to read. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I can only admire Sophie's brave resiliency. Nobody should go through what she experienced...I hope I gave my small contribution to her cause with this review.