My name is Omorose*. I was born in Benin, Nigeria in 1989. Both my parents died when I was very young and so I was raised by my grandmother. She could not afford to send me to school so I stayed with her each day selling oranges by the roadside. As a teenager I got a job in a salon. One of my customers was a glamorous businesswoman I called ‘Auntie’. She offered to take me to Europe where I could work for a rich family and go to school. My grandmother did not want me to leave, but we were struggling to make ends meet and I was so excited by this vision of a ‘new life’ that I agreed.
In the airport Auntie gave me a document that had my picture on it, but a different name. It was crowded and confusing at the airport. Auntie said to just trust her and follow. After three days we got through the last airport – Dublin airport. We went to a house where I was taken to a room and told to get some sleep. The next day Auntie told me that there was a problem with the family I was supposed to work for – they did not need me anymore. She explained that I owed her a lot of money for the travel to Europe and that to pay her back I would have to work in her business: prostitution.
Every day men would come to my room, sometimes five, sometimes ten. The only escape I found was in my mind. My eyes would go to the ceiling where I stared at a damp stain. I could leave my own body and go right up there. Days, weeks, months passed. It didn’t stop. I felt completely lost.
“She offered to take me to Europe where I could work for a rich family and go to school. My grandmother did not want me to leave, but we were struggling to make ends meet and I was so excited by this vision of a ‘new life’ that I agreed.”
Auntie and her boyfriend moved me to another house. On the journey a chance came to run and I escaped. It’s a blur – I know that someone phoned the Gardaí and I felt terrified. I didn’t even know where I was. The Gardaí took me to meet a woman from Ruhama. She introduced me to my caseworker. From that moment, I started to get my life back. She worked with me to organise my papers and find somewhere safe to stay. I began to understand that what had happened to me was a crime and it was not my fault. Auntie had taken advantage of my poor background and desire for new opportunities. At Ruhama I took part in their Education and Development Programme. I was full of anxiety after what happened, but I learned to improve my coping skills and deal better with stress. I also worked hard on my literacy and started using computers for the first time!
I made contact with my grandmother and we were overcome when we finally spoke. It is not safe for me to return to Nigeria because of my traffickers and their network there, but we can Skype now at least. When I escaped from Auntie I felt like an empty shell. Now I have a lot more confidence in myself. I worked with Ruhama’s career guidance counsellor and found that I have a lot of skills I didn’t realise: now I do. I have been with Ruhama two years, but I’m getting to a place where I don’t need them anymore. I have plans and set goals that I can actually work towards. I am training in healthcare and excited for the future. What happened took away my power, my loved ones, and my love of life, but I finally have them back again.
*Name and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality of woman