A SURVIVOR of trafficking says she ‘would not be here today’ without the help of a charity which opened its doors in Barnsley last week.

The Snowdrop Project offers one-to-one support, lasting from a few months to several years, to people who have been affected by trafficking.

The charity, set up in 2012, also provides training to professionals who may come into contact with such people.

Headed by senior caseworker Hannah Rudman, the Barnsley branch will operate from Priory Campus, Lundwood, and will join neighbouring services in Sheffield and Rotherham.

The charity works with clients to access appropriate health care, ensure they have the correct income, have a knowledge of police investigation procedures and can engage with their community.

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Its work is ‘vitally important’ to vulnerable people such as Sophie - whose real name has been omitted to protect her identity - who survived being trafficked for sexual exploitation for six years from the age of 13.

“I should never have been trafficked for that many years undetected,” she said.

“I was not only a child, but I was a child in a school, a child with a GP, a child with foster parents and social workers - all of which failed throughout seven years to identify that I was being tricked, controlled, tortured and sold every day.”

Sophie was initially rescued by a police officer, and spent 45 days in a safehouse.

However, she said that while she was grateful to be taken out of her horrific situation, 45 days wouldn’t prove enough time for her to fully recover.

For two years, she was passed around several agencies but never found the correct care and her mental and physical health deteriorated.

She came into contact with The Snowdrop Project in 2015 and was assigned a support worker and counsellor, as well as getting the opportunity to engage with a wider community of trafficking survivors.

“I found trusting anybody a challenge but Snowdrop never gave up,” she said. “No matter what I was facing, feeling or doing they always stuck by my side and helped empower me to make the best decisions for myself.

“I cannot begin to tell you the impact and difference long-term support has, but I can guarantee you that if I hadn’t had Snowdrop, I would not be here today.”

Sophie now volunteers with the charity and draws on her own experiences to help others.

“Although I have been lucky enough to be rescued and to then have long-term support, I shouldn’t have had to be because I shouldn’t have been a slave,” she said.

“I count it an honour to use my experiences and my voice to speak out on behalf of those who don’t have a voice to help make the necessary changes to survivor care and the movement to eradicate modern slavery.”

In 2018, there were 440 asylum seekers placed in Barnsley - which recently signed a multi-council charter against modern slavery alongside other Yorkshire authorities - according to The Snowdrop Project.

In the two years prior to that, identified cases of modern slavery reportedly increased by 84 per cent.

For more information on The Snowdrop Project contact Hannah on 0333 8805008 or by emailing barnsley@snowdropproject.co.uk.