HESTIA, UK. Over the last decade modern slavery in the UK has been on the rise and it is estimated that there are as many as 100,000 victims.* Women make up about a third of all victims of modern slavery in the UK, with many commonly forced into sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Hestia supports two thirds of all women who have been identified as potential victims. Around half of these women are mothers, with children who often witness their mother’s exploitation, who are born as a result of sexual exploitation or who are born soon after their mother has escaped slavery.
This research found that all of the women were affected by a level of mental ill-health ranging from anxiety to a diagnosis of psychosis. Others suffered with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and stress, and some had disclosed that they had experienced suicidal thoughts. This text found that some children were forced into premature responsibility or became hyper-vigilant to their mother’s needs as a reaction to the challenging circumstances they were living in. Many of the women we spoke to were very aware and concerned about the impact of their trauma and poor mental health on their children, and tried hard to protect them from it. Several women told that if they got sad their children would sense it and get upset. If they cried the child would cry too, or if they were experiencing low mood the child would try to protect them by bringing a book or some other comforter. Low self-esteem was common, often affecting both mother and child. For example, the daughter of one survivor was no longer speaking at school following a period where her mother experienced low self-esteem.
Read full research here.