Dressed in her primary school uniform, Jenny* often stopped at her neighbour’s house to play with his dog in the front garden.
Over time, the young girl struck up a friendship with the pet’s 70-year-old owner, Keith, who began giving her lifts to school and lavishing her with gifts.
With a dad who walked out on her while still young and a mum who worked around the clock to make ends meet, Jenny spent a lot of time alone and was grateful to know a “friendly face”.
Aged 13, however, Keith started asking for sexual favours. It marked the beginning of a horrific journey that saw the vulnerable teenager sold as a sex slave to “forceful and violent” men – and plied with booze and drugs.
“I realised it was wrong when he started to say “I’ve done this for you, what are you going to do for me?” I said I didn’t want to,” Jenny says now of her neighbour’s sick abuse.
“He said it would only take a couple of seconds and I was special to him – and that if he was special to me and I appreciated what he did I’d have sex.
“I think from the first time that’s when he felt he owned you or made his mark on you.”
Perv neighbour invited men to abuse young girl
Horrendously abused for years, Jenny eventually reached out for help and called The Salvation Army, whose workers took her to a safe house within two hours and gave her.
Now, she is speaking out about her experience ahead of a skydive with another survivor of modern slavery to raise money for the charitable organisation.
“I got to know Keith when I went to primary school,” she explains in a video. “I was in Year Six, and he had a dog so on the way to school you’d pet the dog.
“He was always around so it was just a good morning and a friendly face. It was just nice to have someone so interested.
“He’d invite you in the house for a drink and he’d put his hand on your knee and it was uncomfortable, but it sort of progressed from there.”
Jenny explains she was afraid to tell her family about the abuse, and over time Keith demanded more and more ‘favours’.
One day, he told her he was in debt to other men, whom he began inviting over to his house to join in the vile abuse.
“They’d offer you weed, they’d offer you drugs, they’d offer you alcohol, and they were a lot more forceful and violent,” says Jenny.
“They’d pass you around. The men would then bring their friends in and then the network got bigger.”
‘Trafficking steals your identity’
Addicted to the drug diazepam, Jenny left home aged 17 and stayed at a women’s refuge.
However, after years of emotional abuse, she struggled to tear herself free from her tormentors.
“I kept going back,” she says. “You can try and run away but trafficking almost steals your identity.
“So you become what they’ve made you become. That’s all you feel worth so you go back because that’s the only thing giving you purpose.”
Thankfully, after being put in touch with Victim Support by the police, she was told to ring The Salvation Army.
The group provides specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales, working with a network of partners running safe houses and outreach support.
“If it wasn’t for that phone call, and if it wasn’t for The Salvation Army, I would’ve been dead by now,” says Jenny.
“They didn’t ask questions, they didn’t judge you, they didn’t put any pressure on you. You just felt free and safe.”
Jenny and Dan*, a fellow modern slavery survivor, are planning their jump on Sunday, 17 October, the day before Anti-Slavery Day – which aims to raise awareness of the plight of slavery survivors and the warning signs people can look out for.
They hope their skydive will encourage others to sign up to take the leap for The Salvation Army so that more funds can be raised to help support the organisation’s work.
Forced to sell drugs by ‘threatening’ bosses
Dan was support by the organisation after bosses at a warehouse he was working at began forcing him to sell drugs – threatening his family and refusing to pay him for his long shifts.
When the police raided the warehouse, they realised he was a victim and took him to a safe house where The Salvation Army and its partners helped him to recover from his ordeal.
Speaking about the group’s support, Dan says: “I was always treated with respect, honesty and integrity. I learned so much – from cooking skills to languages and other cultures – and their positive energy would instantly cheer me up whenever I felt down.
“They also helped me apply for work and my confidence grew under their care. Amazing people who deserve recognition. What an amazing service. I will forever be in their debt.”
Kathy Betteridge, director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery for The Salvation Army, says: “We are so grateful to Jenny and Dan and in awe of their bravery in skydiving to raise vital funds for our work with modern slavery survivors.
“Please do donate to support their jump via their Just Giving link, but you could consider taking the leap yourself to raise funds for The Salvation Army so that we can continue to help people who have gone through unimaginable experiences on their journey of recovery.”