Human trafficking is a scourge. It does not discriminate and permeates across age, race, sex and gender; it crushes self confidence and destroys lives. Its victims are often some of the most vulnerable members of society, separated from family and friends and with no access to financial help or support, they can become forgotten victims. As victims' minister my role is to ensure that they are not forgotten, but it is a job I can't do alone.
In October last year I met Mike (not his real name). He broke many of the myths that surround modern day slavery; he is a man, British and was trafficked for forced labour. It is not just women or foreign nationals that suffer at the hands of traffickers. He shared his story with me, the degradation and suffering he had experienced, the absolute misery that victims of this terrible crime suffer and how traffickers break the very spirit of their victims. Hearing from him how he was dehumanised and degraded by his traffickers, leaves me in no doubt that each of us must do all we can to stamp out this sickening crime.
But then the question follows - what more can we do? The answer doesn't lie in creating new processes or structures; the UK is already a leading force in combating human trafficking. It lies in two things; awareness and partnerships.
Over the past few years, real progress has been made to tackle modern day slavery. Public awareness-raising campaigns have helped members of the public to identify potential victims and give them the confidence to pick up the phone to help rescue victims. Six hundred and eighty-one victims in the last 18 months have been supported to begin the process of the recovery thanks to over £2million of government funding, and more offenders are being stopped.
Each of us must do what we can, whether it's speaking at our local community group, volunteering for a charity, tweeting, fundraising, speaking out publicly or talking to our friends so that as many people as possible know how to identify potential victims and do something about it.
None of us achieve as much in isolation as we do in partnership. Partnerships allow best practice to be shared and improved upon, ideas to grow and become a reality, resources to be pooled and ultimately see us united and therefore standing stronger against those who against all imagination choose to profit from human misery and degradation. I want more partnerships to be built, between the government and organisations, Local Authorities and frontline organisations, charities and businesses. Together we can create nets through which victims cannot fall. And where victims have been rescued from the hands of their trafficker, we need to work in partnership to help victims become rehabilitated members of their societies who can make a full contribution to their communities.
All through my life I have seen, worked for, and protected victims whether as a child at my mother's refuge centre that she set up for vulnerable women or as a domestic violence family lawyer. As victims' minister at the Ministry of Justice I now have the chance to do all I can to protect victims of trafficking and raise awareness of issues they face. I plan to do just that.
I hope that I can help ensure that victims of trafficking are not forgotten, that they get the access to support they so very much need and deserve to help rebuild their lives, and that more perpetrators are brought to justice to protect the men and women out there at risk of becoming victims of this sickening crime. But partnership means all of us refusing to sit back and let atrocities take place in our country.
Ultimately I've written today hoping that this blog will build more awareness. There is no room for half-promises. Every victim deserves to know that this government and indeed all of us will not give up on them. We must work together to stamp out trafficking and it will only be stopped if every one of us refuses to accept it. As victims' minister I will do all I can to protect victims of trafficking and raise awareness of issues they face, I hope you will join me.
The Salvation Army has a 24-hour confidential helpline (0300 303 8151) for professional advice and support and referrals seven days a week.