Children of modern slavery survivors face intergenerational trauma

“My son was talking and now he’s stopped. My son was born after I had escaped slavery. I was isolated. When you feel so alone it’s so hard to cope.”

These are the words of a mother who is a survivor of modern slavery in the UK. According to a new research report from charity Hestia, the children of modern slavery survivors in the UK — estimated at 5,000 children — suffer intergenerational trauma and are “overlooked, misunderstood, and forgotten” by public agencies.

Several children were born as a result of sexual exploitation, or were present when their mothers were forced into domestic servitude. Some were born soon after their mother escaped.

The Independent reports:

Hestia, which helps over 2,200 adult victims of modern slavery and 1,200 dependent children each year, warned disturbing encounters and trauma experienced by a mother can exert profound and enduring repercussions on a child’s life and cause deteriorating mental health and developmental delays.

The study, which is titled Forgotten Children, urges ministers to overhaul the 2015 Modern Slavery Act and officially class children of modern slavery as victims in legal terms, as well as demanding training for health professionals, teachers and social workers, so they have a greater awareness of the long-term consequences of modern slavery.

Patrick Ryan, chief executive at Hestia, said: “Rebuilding a life after the trauma of modern slavery is a long and difficult journey. The risk of intergenerational transmission of this trauma is great.

The mother whose son stopped talking said she was “concerned about my son and the delays in his speech,” but a GP told her not to worry. Her son has now been diagnosed with autism, which has been difficult to cope with as he is unable to express his needs.

“I was not aware of it and didn’t know what it meant or how to help him,” she said.

Natasha Walter, founder of Women for Refugee Women, has worked with many women who have suffered violence and trauma, including “women who are struggling to bring up their children in safety while facing the challenges of the hostile environment.”

“The government’s hostile policies not only affect adults, but also children who are too often overlooked and forgotten.”

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