Out of the Shadows

Hear about how women and girls can begin to rebuild their lives post-slavery and what sort of support can help in their recovery.

"I don’t know if anybody fully recovers. But I think what they do, is they learn to live a different life. They learn to be independent. And, with the right therapy and help, the trauma comes back less."

Karen Anstiss
Bakhita House

Getting started

  • Do you think it is possible for a victim of modern slavery to ever truly recover?
  • What do you imagine are the primary needs of someone recently rescued from modern slavery?

Watch Out of the Shadows

Please accept marketing cookies to watch this video.

Questions from the film

  • What struck you from the film?
  • Did anything you heard surprise you?
  • How did the survivor stories make you feel?
  • What inspired you?
  • What questions does it leave you with?

What is the recovery process like for victims of modern slavery?

Simone Lord, Project Manager - Moving On Project, Medaille Trust
Even in the darkest of times, there is always hope. That doesn’t mean that moments of hopelessness don’t occur, but hope has the power to keep us going even when there seems no way out.

When women begin their journeys with us, they have usually been through things many of us would struggle to imagine. Many have lost their independence, their identity and self-worth. But we are often struck by the resilience of the women who come into our support. They are not just victims, they are survivors. For many, hope has kept them going in the darkest of times and on their recovery journey, hope is the golden thread that keeps them moving forward.

Women entering our services have a range of complex needs and we work to support them in a rounded way. These can include physical and mental health needs, sorting their immigration status, overcoming addictions, self-esteem issues and planning for their future, amongst many others. Our aim is to work with woman as equals to support them to flourish in a life free from slavery.

Organisations like Medaille Trust help women to feel hopeful and optimistic about their futures. Our role is to help women with their recovery from every angle and an important part of this is encouraging feelings of hope and joy to return to women’s lives.

Medaille Trust recently launched a ‘Moving On Project’, which works with women after they have left safe house provision to help them to thrive in their local communities. We want to support survivors to move on positively with their lives, providing one to one support with everything from independent living to education and employment. Community based, this project demonstrates the role of wider communities in supporting those around them to thrive. We don’t know the identity or backstory of many of our neighbours but looking out for each other and being good neighbours is everyone’s responsibility. Medaille Trust will continue to hold out hope for a future free from modern slavery.

Exploring the complexities of trauma and whether it’s possible to heal and move on

It is difficult to imagine how a survivor can ever forgive the people who have caused their suffering.

Can a survivor forgive someone who isn’t sorry? Can they forgive someone who is still perpetrating the same crimes? Can they choose to let go of the anger they feel and find the strength to move forward? How do they handle the grief and regret of a life destroyed by others? How do they learn to make choices again?

The list of those who have played a part is often endless. There are the people who have actively inflicted the abuse and there are just as many who have contributed to the pain by failing to notice the signs of suffering or provided the context into which an abuser has acted.

There are the parents who have failed to provide a loving home, the teachers who have overlooked a child, the authorities who have blamed a survivor rather than supported them and countless others who have judged or been passive.

A person trying to recover from trauma may travel through some of the following steps as they seek to discover how to feel safe:

  • grieving
  • reflecting on some root causes of the events
  • choosing to forgive
  • seeking to establish justice.

Women can remain vulnerable and fragile for the rest of their lives and any journey towards recovery is challenging and complex - full of twists and turns, progress, setbacks and many dark days.

The hope is that the trauma becomes integrated into the new self and the individual can live as freely as possible but this doesn’t always happen and sometimes victims are repeatedly targeted and exploited.

The role of professionals is vital in helping victims begin to move away from the trauma and start to live with their past. It can be daunting for an untrained person to think about how they can support a victim of modern slavery as they recover but the place of ordinary, unconditional, dependable friendship surrounding a survivor with support and a feeling of safety is just as vital as the professional.

Did you know wk5 Stnd

Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative

In creating this resource, we wanted to look deep beneath the surface of the issue of modern slavery and explore the many facets involved – from how people first fall prey to the perpetrators and the different situations they may find themselves in, to the impacts of trauma and the challenges of recovery.

The resulting material is detailed and, in places, difficult and disturbing. We know from those who have already used some of it that they found it both moving and at times overwhelming but the most common questions at the end were ‘what can we do?’ and ‘how can we help?’

The action you can take or ways you can get involved will depend on your circumstances - whether you are an individual, the leader of a community group or project or working for an organisation affected by or involved in a particular aspect of modern slavery.

You may find that a specific topic such as county lines or labour exploitation is particularly relevant to your community or situation and choose to focus on that. Alternatively, you may be motivated to support female victims or to galvanise your community to look at ways of building resilient and supportive networks.

We’ve listed some ideas below to help you think about things you can do but, remember, it’s OK to start small. Every action, however small, can make a difference and if it helps just one person it could turn their life around.

What can I do right now to help?

  • Build a coalition – can you identify people or groups in your community who care about the issue of modern slavery too? How can you bring them together to brainstorm further action? Find out more about working in communities at www.clewerinitiative.org/what-we-do/working-in-communities or contact us for support clewerinitiative@churchofengland.org.
  • Find out about local victim support projects in your area and ways you might be able to support them.
  • Spread the word – can you start telling others about women and exploitation? Where could you display a ‘Spot the Signs’ poster? Who could you tell about The Clewer Initiative’s apps or Women in the Shadows films? Can you start sharing our messages on your social channels?
  • Attend or run a course - are you volunteering at a local social action project? Are you on the frontline meeting people in your area? Would you be interested in running or attending a modern slavery awareness raising or safeguarding training course for people in your community? We have a range of courses, some of which we can help you run if you are leading a group. For more details visit https://www.theclewerinitiative.org/training.
  • Start noticing the people around you and asking questions – if you don’t know what signs to look out for or questions to ask, why not attend one of our general awareness raising sessions?
  • Visit https://www.theclewerinitiative.org/ to see a range of brilliant resources to help raise awareness of modern slavery and equip the local community to get involved. This includes training courses, posters and leaflets in many different languages, interactive apps and films.

As with other crimes, it is important you report any suspicions of modern slavery to the police. Do not attempt to intervene yourself, as you may put yourself and those around you – including the potential victim – in danger.


  • If there is an emergency and someone is in immediate danger, call 999.
  • If you would like to report any non-emergency suspicious activity in your local area then call your local police on 101 or go to your local police station.
  • If you need advice or support on modern slavery, please call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. It operates 24 hour a day, 365 days a year.
  • For the confidential Salvation Army referral helpline call 0800 121 700

"Exploitation can take many forms. We have a responsibility to go looking for it and do something about it."

Shayne Tyler
Group Compliance Director, Fresca Group

The Clewer Initiative would like to thank everyone who has helped bring the Women in the Shadows project to life:

Film participants:

Jen Baines, Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority https://www.gla.gov.uk/
Louise Hulland, author and modern slavery campaigner https://www.louisehulland.com/
Sister Lynda Dearlove, women@thewell https://watw.org.uk/
Rosie Hopley, Beloved https://beloved.org.uk/
Karen Anstiss, Caritas Bakhita House https://www.caritaswestminster.org.uk/bakhita-house.php
Alison Logier, Hestia https://www.hestia.org/
Shayne Tyler, Fresca Group https://www.frescagroup.co.uk/
Clive Davies, Chief Superintendent, East Surrey Division, https://www.surrey.police.uk
Jackie Mouradian, Mosaic Creative https://www.mosaiccreative.co.uk/
Bishop Alastair Redfern https://www.theclewerinitiative.org/

Contributors to this resource:

Dame Sara Thornton DBE QPM – Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner https://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/
The Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit, National Crime Agency (NCA) https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/what-we-do/crime-threats/modern-slavery-and-human-trafficking
April McCoig, Victims and Partnership Lead, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Office https://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/
Alison Logier, Service Manager, Hestia https://www.hestia.org/
Lysbeth Ford, Senior Partnership Prevention Officer, The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) (retired from GLAA August 2021) https://www.gla.gov.uk/
Detective Inspector Anne Rannard, National County Lines Coordination Centre Protect lead https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/what-we-do/crime-threats/drug-trafficking/county-lines
Simone Lord, Project Manager - Moving On Project, Medaille Trust https://www.medaille-trust.org.uk/
Bishop Alastair Redfern https://www.theclewerinitiative.org/

Sign up for our newsletter

Get regular news and updates straight to your inbox

Sign up now