Modern-day slavery is alive and living next door to you

Here is Rob’s story

Three hours on and I’m still shocked. Truth be told I feel pretty unsettled. There’s a funny feeling in my stomach and I find myself riding a wave of different emotions. Surprise, anger, disgust, compassion, frustration.

Rob (not his real name) is the new boyfriend of a good friend. I met him for the first time this afternoon and he appears to be a lovely man. Softly spoken, caring, compassionate, clearly in love with my friend, and with some clear values.

He’s also shown himself to be patient and understanding, perhaps as I was to learn, to a fault.

What came out over the course of that hour or so getting to know Rob for the first time is the reason for my unsettled feelings and the compelling need to write this.

Rob was married to someone before. He is the father of two children and the step-father to two others. He worked for his wife’s family for many years and only in recent times has he been able to escape their clutches.

Warning Signs

From early on it seems there were warning signs. Most of the money he and his wife received at the wedding went back to her mother. It appears she was very much the dominant matriarch of the family.

As the kids were growing up their Mum would go off on holiday around 10 times a year, leaving Rob and the kids at home. Who does that?

Almost as soon as his children were born he was not allowed to hold them and time with them was restricted. “This is not your room, you are not allowed in here,” he was told when he tried to enter the lounge to spend time with his kids.

Rob and his wife shared a house with her parents.

Rob was made to work outrageous hours often getting up at 2:30am to clean offices for the family business before walking several miles to run the shop during the day. He would then close up and go back and do more cleaning before getting home late in the evening, and repeating the process again.

His money was never his own and he would be given a small portion of what he earned to spend.

He would often be told there were no bonuses because they had been spent on holidays or other family events.

On his birthday the family would go out for a meal and he would get just a card and have to pay for his own meal while the rest was paid by the family elders.

Since the divorce is been able to read up and educate himself as to what was happening. He’s managed to get himself another job and for the first time in his life, he’s been able to spend his own money. When he realised that, it moved him to tears.

My friend bought him a bunch of presents for his birthday and by his own admission, it’s taken him a while to be able to process it.

Rob is a white, British man, living in Cheshire. Rob’s story is just one of many. At least 10,000 in the UK alone in 2019. The real number of people trapped in slavery is estimated to be much higher.

Modern slavery is present in every single area of the UK. You probably see people trapped in slavery on a regular basis. It might be someone working in a private home on your street, the man working in the car wash in town, or the cleaner who empties your office bin every night.

It can be difficult to spot the signs, but if you are concerned about someone, contact the modern slavery helpline.

Rob had made it out. Many others aren’t so lucky or determined.

Don’t turn a blind eye.

Find out more

. . .

Helping people use mental fitness for a great life. Author of Mental Toughness Metaphors — Stories to inspire resilience

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