When police raided a caravan site in Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire just before dawn in September last year to free a group of men they believed were living in servitude, officers were shocked by the filth and degradation men were living in. [...] The case is the first successful conviction under new “modern day slavery” laws since new legislation was introduced in 2010. [...] During a 13-week trial, the court heard that vulnerable men – many of them homeless and addicted to alcohol or drugs – were recruited in soup kitchens and outside jobcentres and promised cash payments, food and lodging in return for work. But once at the Irish traveller site, they were forced to work for nothing in the family block paving business for up to 19 hours a day and were routinely abused, underfed and housed in filthy sheds and horseboxes. [...] The men were told to call Tommy Connors Snr “Pa”, while other family members insisted on being called “Dad” or “Daddy”. Workers told police they were often attacked with weapons such as broom handles, while another man was threatened with a claw hammer, the court heard. [...] The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was put to work paving. “I didn’t like it but they said I couldn’t leave and said if I tried to leave … I would get murdered,” he said in evidence played in court. He described being punched in the eye for not finding any work, forced into the boot of the family’s car and ordered to sing How Much is That Doggie in the Window and Bob the Builder. “I was basically being mentally tortured,” he added. [...] Prosecutor Frances Oldham QC summed up the case by saying [...] “They were controlled in such a way that in many cases they could not see it. They became conditioned … the reason for their exploitation was money. They may not in the strict sense have been slaves, members of the jury, but the prosecution say this: they were not free men.” [...] Of the 23 men removed from the site, some went back to the site and would not testify, but others came forward after the initial raid. In all, eight men testified in court against the Connors family.
From this news report (emphasis in red added by me). Change the pronouns and swap ‘manual labour’ for ‘sex work’ and you’d have a realistic description of the reality of prostitution.
Because this happened to men, it’s recognised as abuse; even though some of the men went back and refused to testify (women and girls controlled by a boyfriend-pimp will often go back to their abuser, and refuse to testify against them), it’s still recognised as unequivocal abuse.
But then laying paving stones isn’t sexxxy, and these slavers are small scale compared to the global sex industry; if laying paving stones was sexxxy, and generated as much money as the global sex industry did, then there would be academics queuing up to make a name for themselves by telling us how ‘transgressive’, ‘boundary crossing’ and ‘empowering’ it was to lay paving stones, and slavers would set up lobby groups to represent themselves, but call them unions.
Below is an anonymous account from one of the victimised men. The same applies here, too, change the pronouns and it’s the classic route into prostitution for vulnerable women and girls (and yes, some boys and young men too).
One man who was picked up by the Connors and taken to the site at Leighton Buzzard told the Guardian about conditions there.
He was in a desperate position when he first came into contact with the Connors in September 2009. With no money and no job, he was about to become homeless when a member of the family approached him in the queue for a soup kitchen, he said. “He pulled up in a nice car with his wife and child and offered me £40 a day and a roof over my head for manual labour. At the time it seemed like manna from heaven and I saw no reason to distrust him.”
At the site he soon became aware of around 15 to 20 other “workers” living in terrible conditions. “There were 12 to 15 men in a horse box, working 16- to 17-hour days. They were kept working constantly, either paving or doing errands, there was no time to rest,” he said. Beatings, physical abuse and neglect were a daily occurrence. “I’ve seen people hit with shovels, broom handles, threatened with pick-axes – they saw the workers as playthings.”
The men were vulnerable, frightened to stand up for themselves, he said. “Every single one of them was a drug addict, homeless or an alcoholic. For some of these men it was comforting to feel someone was looking after them, feeding them – they became conditioned to the place.”
It was a place of fear and intimidation, he added.
“The atmosphere was incredibly tense, you were waiting for the next time they would hit you, shove you, yell at you … and you were just so knackered, you put up with it.”
While he says he was given enough food, the other men would only eat poorly, often only once a day. “Their pay was a carrier bag with a few chocolate biscuits and a packet of digestives at the end of the week. Some of them had been doing it for so long, they hated it – but they were resigned to their fate.”
Despite the fact that the workers were not physically restrained, they had little chance of leaving, he added.
” I wanted to get out, but I didn’t have an option. I was 150 miles from home, with no money. I didn’t think the police would believe me – it’s hard to believe.I was depressed and out of options.”