Through The 16 Days of Freedom so far, we have talked about the idea of imprisonment and modern slavery. But what is it actually like to live it? Sadly, these experiences are far too real for far too many people. People such as Maria*. Maria was a victim of, and subject to imprisonment, slavery and sexual servitude right here in Australia.
Like many of us, Maria had built a normal life for herself. Raised in Europe, she had received a degree from an esteemed university. She fell in love and married a man, moving countries to begin the next chapter of their relationship together.
Little did she know that this next chapter would be more akin to a nightmare.
Very quickly, Maria’s relationship fell into an extremely abusive and violent situation. Forced to endure unliveable conditions, Maria was used and sold for sex in order to pay for her captors alcoholism. Beaten more times than she could recall, Maria sustained horrific brain injuries which led to her developing epilepsy.
This was Maria’s reality for over 15 years.
For an excruciating length of time, Maria was experiencing a fate worse than most of us can imagine.
During her captivity, Maria grew to be very attuned to her captors movements and was sometimes able to escape for ten-minute increments. Maria used these moments to collect clothes from clothing bins, scraps from the rubbish and scrounge together whatever painkillers she could find.
Through word of mouth, Maria found out about The Freedom Hub. Using every bit of bravery she had, Maria passed on a letter to our charity that detailed her story.
With the help of The Freedom Hub, Maria was able to leave her situation. She was admitted to the hospital to be renourished and to treat her brain trauma. After four weeks of recovery, she was finally healthy enough to fly back home and start her life over again.
The Role of The Freedom Hub:
Although The Freedom Hub was eventually able to help Maria, they were far from the first people she’d gone to for help. She had sent letters to her embassy, various politicians, and well-known charities. As she had been in captivity for more than a decade and a half, all her visas and passports had expired, making her a ‘ghost’. Without an identity, most institutions were unable to help Maria.
This demonstrates the importance of establishments such as The Freedom Hub, along with the power of word of mouth.
Sally Irwin, CEO of The Freedom Hub spoke on this story, “Even if Maria is the only survivor to have come through our doors, then it would be worth it. Everything we’ve ever done has been to rescue and protect this one person.”
Slavery in Australia:
Maria’s story is just one of thousands in our own country. The Global Slavery Index of 2018 has estimated that there are approximately 15,000 individuals living in a state of modern slavery within Australia. Many of them with stories like Maria’s.
Although Maria’s story had a positive ending and she was able to leave her imprisonment and return home, this is not the case for many women. An estimated 52 women die from domestic abuse every year**.
By taking part in our 16 Days of Freedom, you can play your part and raise awareness of this issue, contributing to the abolishment of slavery in the modern day.
Written by: Ebony Stanmore
*Not her real name
** ourwatch.org, Key statistics on violence against women in Australia, < https://www.ourwatch.org.au/quick-facts/>
Want to help Make a Difference NOW?
High Teas for Humanity – Celebrate freedom on Human Rights Day (10th December) by coming to our High Tea or you could run your own high tea and fundraise for victims of violence in slavery in our Survivor School.
End of Year Giving – purchase from our shop and know that 100% of the profits from your purchase supports victims of violence in slavery in our survivor school.
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