Exploitation happens in every city, in every country. Kat's story of exploitation by a sham employment agency is all to common across the globe. Luckily, through Women at the Well and Arise's network she has found real employment and been rescued from a life of abuse in London brothels. 


From Hungary to London

Kat* was a qualified general nurse in Hungary. She is a single mother, and when made redundant she came to London on the promise of good wages working as a cleaner. When she arrived she discovered that her Hungarian employment agency was a sham. They offered her shared rented accommodation which she would pay for through her work. The pay was too low to afford this. Quite early on the agency offered “work” in brothels as a way to make ends meet. Most of her contemporaries were single mothers with their children being looked after by grandparents in Hungary. They tended to say yes. They were desperate.


From cleaning to a brothel

Most of the brothels were run by Hungarian women. They were in private houses and flats in residential areas all over London, where the windows were locked and covered with shutters. Often there was no bathroom available to the girls, only a sink to wash in. In almost all of these the madams demanded the women’s ID cards or passports. These brothels often moved, with the women forced to move with them. Some were introduced to drugs until dependency eroded their desire for freedom. They always had to give 50% of their earnings to the owner. The men were charged between £60 and £90 per hour, and the women were expected to make minimum £200-300 daily.

Kat recalls one occasion where a bouncer told her that she “would be buried under the floor” unless she behaved. She lived and breathed fear. Some of the women were literally being sold and bought. When a madam or pimp lost money with gambling, they paid with a woman, or on one occasion with the whole brothel.


Rescue and on-ward Support

Kat eventually managed to escape through an unlocked window one night, after two years of prostitution. The window had been left ajar after a client had complained about the lack of air in the room. She registered as a self-employed cleaner with a real agency, and began working 40 hours a week to support her family. However, she fell on hard times again after her mother fell ill, and again found herself offered work in a brothel to survive. The circumstances were so inhuman that when she again managed to escape she found herself sleeping on the streets.

This is where she was found by a support worker for Woman at the Well, a charity in Kings Cross headed by one of Arise’s Trustees. She was given food, and a safe place to sleep over the weekend. The charity supported her living costs for four months, during which time she came to their drop-in centre every day to seek help. Kat said herself that if they had not paid her hostel, she would have found herself back in brothels as they were the only other places open to her. Kat has no mental health issues, and has no history substance or alcohol misuse. 

Courageously, Kat was determined to work with the police to disrupt the brothel systems she had been in, and rescue the countless other women trapped. After she had been placed in a safe house, she began to work closely with police to infiltrate the ring. Through close work with Arise, Kat managed to gain an interview with Nazareth House - a convent run care home in West London. She has successfully managed to get, and retain, a job as a nurse and carer.

* not her real name