New report shines light on experience of pregnant victims of modern slavery

~ Charity Hestia publishes new data on women supported in London ~

  • 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are pregnant when referred for support to charity Hestia
  • 2 in 3 women received no antenatal care until their third trimester before coming to Hestia.
  • 1 in 3 women were suicidal during their pregnancy.
  • 16% of women had slept rough whilst pregnant before coming to Hestia.

 8 March 2018: A new report today highlights the shocking experience of pregnant women in London who have been victims of modern slavery. The report is published by charity Hestia, which is the main organisation in London supporting victims of modern slavery. Underground Lives: Pregnancy & Modern Slavery reveals that pregnant women who have been victims of modern slavery continue to experience trauma and significant barriers to their recovery after they are freed. The report uses data from 147 pregnant women supported by Hestia in 2017.  Hestia’s services are provided to individuals who proceed through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and are referred to us via the Salvation Army.

Pregnant victims of modern slavery experienced severe mental health traumas with 1 in 3 women contemplating suicide during their pregnancy. Whilst pregnant, women were routinely unable to access the support they needed, with some waiting over a year to access perinatal mental healthcare. Prior to entering the NRM, 2 in 3 women received no antenatal care until their third trimester. This put both mothers and babies at risk, particularly because of the complex health issues developed as a result of being a victim of modern slavery.

The report revealed that the subsidy women received from the Government was not enough to cover the additional basic needs associated with pregnancy, with all women relying on charity support and food banks for basic needs. This was compounded by a lack of suitable housing.

4 in 5 women were estranged from their families at a time they craved the support of their own mothers. Women reported feeling isolated, with feelings of shame and fear of honour-based violence preventing them from reconnecting with their families.

Hestia’s CEO Patrick Ryan said:

“These harrowing stories and shocking statistics reveal that even after pregnant women have escaped the hands of their abusers, they continue to endure unimaginable horrors. The support provided to these women as part of the Government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is vital to improving outcomes for these women and their babies.

However, we need urgent action from the NHS to ensure access to critical perinatal mental healthcare. We also hope these new findings will feed into the Government’s review of the NRM which is currently underway. Pregnancy is a time of increased vulnerability. As a society, we must ensure that these women get the support they deserve.”