Young woman speaks out about her life of hell after being forced into prostitution in Milton Keynes
She was made to have sex with strange men so her 'pimp' and his gang could buy drugs, she says
A young woman has spoken out about the seedy underground life of drugs and prostitution in Milton Keynes.
She was forced to endure almost a year of hell and isolation from friends and family at the hands of her ex-partner, who was part of a drugs gang.
"I started out as the type of girl that would never do drugs. But he persuaded me to take cocaine - he just went on and on and in the end I caved in. Of course, before very long I was addicted," she said.
"And that was the hold he had on me.
"He took my phone and he didn't tell me talk to my family or friends. I was totally alone and dependent upon him and the things he was making me do got worse and worse. But I was so low and so desperate that I had no power to object.
"He would take me to different houses and tell me I had to have sex with men so he could get money for more cocaine. I didn't want to do it but I felt I had no choice. Afterwards, he'd get hundreds of pounds but I never saw any of it."
The woman, who was in her early 20s at the time, also had to endure abuse and violence from the man.
"He controlled me totally. He controlled everything I did. But he'd suddenly turn for no reason and start punching me. I had several black eyes and one time he smashed the side of my face and broke my rib. I was in so much pain that I could hardly breathe. I begged him to help me, but he refused.
"When you're told you are useless, you believe it. You think it's your fault and you deserve it."
Last year, after a particularly bad beating, the woman finally plucked up courage to tell police and the man was jailed. She now lives in fear of him coming out of prison and is hoping she will get help move from her council flat and start a new life somewhere he cannot find her.
She is convinced other teenagers and young women in Milton Keynes are still suffering similar fates.
"I know I'm not the only one," she said.
"He was part of a gang of guys who think they can get away with anything. They've got all the chat, the flash, shiny cars and all the moves... They can charm a girl in next to no time and persuade her to join them.
"They're all into hard drugs and crime and they use the girls to finance their drug habits, mainly crack. They get them hooked on drugs and keep them hidden away from society, bringing them out only when they make them have sex with 'clients' It's a horrible, dark world that many people don't know even exists in Milton Keynes.
"They prey on girls who are vulnerable, who've perhaps got problems with their families. Or they like girls who are naive because they're easier to persuade. They think it's exciting and glamorous at first - and, of course, they're promised the world."
The young woman has been following the tragic and mysterious case of Leah Croucher, who vanished from Milton Keynes back February 2019 at the age of 19.
Leah's parents are convinced their daughter was taken and held against her will.
Earlier this year, on the second anniversary of her disappearance, her mum Claire said: "I still do not believe that Leah decided to vanish of her own accord. I believe that she has been taken against her will. Either by someone she trusted and considered a good friend, or by a stranger.
"Leah has been robbed of her life, her future. We have been robbed of so many wonderful milestones... Please tell us what you did to Leah, please tell us where she is, so we can bring her home and say goodbye to her properly," she begged.
And this woman believes Leah may have been picked up by a human trafficking gag.
"I think it's possible that someone like Leah, who seemed quite trusting, could be swept off her feet by one of these gangs," she said.
"They would promise her everything then very quickly get her hooked and drugs and she would be trapped, under their control and unable to find a way of escape."
Thames Valley Police take a hard line on any form of human trafficking, which is when people are moved around an area or brought to an area and forced to work or do other things they don't want to do.
"Traffickers use violence, threats or false promises of well-paid jobs and a better life, to trick victims into working for them, what's known as modern slavery. Men, women and children of all ages, and from all backgrounds, can be victims of this crime," said a police spokesman.
"One of the most common types of trafficking is sex trafficking, which involves victims working as prostitutes, in pornography, phone sex lines, internet chat rooms or escort agencies," the spokesman said.
"There is also forced labour, where they are forced to work for low pay, or no pay, in poor conditions with threats of punishment, as well as forced crime in the form of begging, pick-pocketing, selling drugs or bag snatching.
"Communities have an important role to play in recognising abuse. If you recognise any of the above signs and suspect someone may be a victim of trafficking, tell someone. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available," said the police spokesman.
To report a suspicion or get advice you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you want to remain anonymous, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.