Today in unimaginably horrible news that reaffirms both the tenacity of the human spirit and human beings' unfathomable capacity for cruelty to each other: three UK women who were held as slaves for thirty years have been freed. One of the women, who is 30, had never lived a free day in her life.
The trio consisted of a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman, and a 30-year-old woman who, according to the Guardian, had "no contact with the outside world." They were held as slaves by a 67-year-old couple who resided in south London who aren't British citizens.
The women made their escape after the Irish woman saw Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity, on TV talking about the work her group does to combat the growing problem of forced marriages of young girls in the UK. Her group also works to combat the growing problem of slavery in the UK. Let me repeat the second half of that sentence because the first time I typed it, my brain turned off at the awfulness of this string of words: "the growing problem of slavery in the UK." Yep.
The Irish woman made a call to the charity and she and the 30-year-old woman met with members of the group last month. Days later, the group returned to the house where the women had been held and rescued the Malaysian woman. Earlier this week, authorities arrested the couple who had held them in bondage and charged them with forced labor and domestic servitude.
Thankfully, the story of these women's captivity ends not with tragedy, but with freedom. From the Guardian,
After a "traumatic and very difficult" first call to Freedom staff, Prem arranged a single point of contact for the women and began "secret negotiations" to bring them out.
She said: "We did it in a very slow way to gain their trust, because after 30 years of people being held in very difficult circumstances, one of the things we didn't want to do was to add any more trauma."
Police delayed the arrest so they could work sensitively with the victims to establish the facts of the case.
The women weren't physically prevented from leaving, according to the Guardian piece, but were kept in "psychological shackles." I shudder to think what that consists of.
Now, the women work to begin their new life. They have no possessions, haven't lived independently for decades (if at all) and are still processing the trauma of their forced servitude. Luckily, Freedom Charity is helping them, but it's a huge bummer that Freedom Charity even needs to exist to address human slavery in the year 2013.
Have a great weekend, everybody!