How did you become involved in the movement against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation?
The Sophie Hayes Foundation became involved in the combat against sex trafficking and exploitation when a survivor from the UK named Sophie Hayes wanted to make a difference after her horrific experience of being forced into the sex industry. Like many, Sophie had a very normal life, good education, stable job, and wonderful people surrounding her. Then a trip to visit a person she thought was her best friend changed all of that. It is very important for us to share this story and work with other survivors, policy makers and law enforcement agencies to end modern day slavery.
What draws you to support people who are trafficked and sexually exploited?
Survivors of human trafficking are no different from any other person with amazing life dreams and goals. They are amazing people; this is why Sophie Hayes finds it very important to support them in the best way possible. What they have to say is very important to us, and by giving survivors a voice, so much can be changed through their experience.
What does your work involve?
We work to bring awareness of key issues surrounding human trafficking. Sophie and other team members have spoken at schools, conferences, interviews with the media, and police. Sophie assists the UK Human Trafficking Metropolitan Police with training and education. We work to address issues that fight human trafficking and provide support to survivors. We are passionate about the education of young people who may be susceptible to being trafficked. We have partnered with religious organisations to be able to bring information to the most people possible. We visit safe houses and Sophie tells them her story: one that ends with redemption, freedom and hope. We have also partnered with other NGOs in Mexico, and the United States and we are working hard to bring changes to our society and give an opportunity to other survivors to share their ideas and voices in the fight for freedom.
For anyone else who wants to be involved, what can other people do to help?
Anyone can be involved in the combat against sex trafficking. One simple and very important way is to talk about it with others so they know to be aware. It is also very important to understand warning signs so that if anyone around you is suffering, you can help. Know your country’s helpline in case of an emergency.
What are your plans for the future?
Sophie and The Sophie Hayes Foundation have big dreams. We dream of being able to work full time in combating human trafficking. We are passionate about education and training across a variety of platforms from schools, academic institutes, law enforcement, government and other service providers. Sophie has recently spoken at The Institute of Criminal Science and The Commission of Human Rights and Justice; both conferences Sophie took other survivors as she believes change comes from their experience and their voices must be heard. We have started a network to assist survivors in reintegrating into society and building careers. SHF dreams of arranging a conference this year to discuss international cooperation and policy across the broad international community.
What legal improvements or changes would help to abolish child sexual slavery and exploitation?
Many changes can be made to help survivors and punish the perpetrators of this crime, such as legislation that punishes all criminal parties from the trafficker to the client. Having spoken to many survivors, we would like to see better safeguarding and police training as well as more cooperation between countries. Because this is a global issue, there are different improvements that will help in each country. The most important changes are the ones that will keep protected and empower survivors.
Recommended websites/further reading:
Our foundation has a website where you can stay up to date with what we are working on. There you will find more information about us and ways to donate to the foundation www.sophiehayesfoundation.org.
Sophie Hayes has also written a book, Trafficked, which was a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2012. In it, she shares her story of betrayal and survival. Pick one up today and join us in the combat against sex trafficking.