When 21-year-old Timea Nagy arrived in Toronto to earn a living as a waitress, her passport was taken, she was kidnapped, controlled, and forced to work in the sex-trade industry. Now, 10 years later, she shares her harrowing ordeal in an attempt to save trafficked victims through education and awareness.
Human Trafficking in Canada
Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime around the world. This multibillion-dollar criminal industry involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and delivery of people for the purpose of slavery, sexual exportation and forced labour. According to the RCMP, 15,000 people are trafficked in and through Canada every year.
Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, Timea and her older Brother, Zoltan, suffered through their parents turbulent marriage, which later resulted in divorce. Despite her challenging family circumstances, Timea excelled in school, toured as an accomplished soprano, created a successful TV show for the teenage market, and wrote, produced and hosted live-to-air shows, interviewing well-known Hungarian and American musicians.
But when Timea found herself in financial difficulty she responded to a local newspaper ad that read: “Looking for young girls. Jobs outside the country. English not necessary.” She was convinced she had found the solution to her problems.
“I met a woman whose job pitch was irresistible,” says Timea. “I could work in Canada as a domestic, nanny, waitress or nightclub dancer. In Hungary nightclub dancers are popular and the girls are fully clothed. My plane fare and accommodation would be paid. For $150 all my documents would be completed and I would be on a plane to a new life in two weeks. ‘It’s as simple as that,’ the woman said.”
When Timea stepped off the plane in Toronto, however, she was met by three burly men who she quickly learned were her “agents.” Two Hungarians and a Canadian snatched her passport and papers from her, then whisked her off to a hotel where she showered, changed and was taken directly to her job in West Toronto. “It was a whirlwind,” Timea recalls. “The men were angry and said I owed them money for my plane fare and completion of documents. ‘You owe us $3,500,’they barked.’”
Timea’s dream of working as a waitress in a disco and becoming a singer disintegrated as she looked around the small, smoky Toronto club her agents had taken her to. They handed her a stripper wardrobe; lingerie and platform shoes. She was told she must participate in so-called table dancing. “I was shocked. I felt sick and scared,” says the petite, Hungarian who could speak no English at the time. “My life would never be the same.”
During her three months as a stripper, Timea was raped by her agents, suffered mental abuse, was undernourished, forced to have sex with the club’s clients and was threatened with death on several occasions. “Every day the agents reminded me they had connections to organized crime figures who would seek revenge if I didn’t earn my keep,” says Timea.
“They controlled my every move,” she continues. “I could phone my family in Hungary, but my conversations were short and monitored by the Hungarian agents. I wasn’t permitted to leave the hotel alone. I was escorted to the club each day at noon and picked up at 6 a.m. the next morning. It was hotel club, club hotel.
“I really didn’t know what was going on, but knew I was threatened and in danger. I had no one to trust and was afraid the police wouldn’t believe my story. I planned my escape. In my very limited, broken English I asked the club’s DJ if I could hide at his place for a few days. He agreed. For the next week I filled a canvas tote bag with jeans, street shoes and a heavy sweater. I hid them in the locker of the Richmond Hill strip club I was working at until I could make my dash for freedom.
“I returned to Budapest weighing 84 pounds. I was immediately thrown in jail for possessing a fake passport. My nightmare continued as two detectives raped me over and over for eight hours. Two days later, I was released. During the following week I was harassed and threatened by the Hungarian police who wanted me to testify against my captors, and the mafia who threatened to kill me if I did.
“I scrambled to obtain a passport under a new name and returned to Canada as a visitor. I worked in a regular job as a waitress and after a year contacted the police. I became a witness against the agents who raped me. In 1998 there were no trafficking laws and they were charged with sexual assault. It took six years for the case to be heard in the courts. We lost.
For the past 10 years Timea has lived a quiet existence in Toronto. Now she is ready to turn her horrific experience into a message of hope.
Timea is developing an International Counselling Program for Human Trafficking Survivors. Her hope is to create a standardized system that can be easily implemented in existing counselling programs within major non-profit organizations across North America.
Her new book, Walk With Me, A Memoir of a Sex Slave Worker, is a full accounting of her story and her road to wholeness and is set to be released in the fall of 2009.
In addition to the projects mentioned above, Timea will be participating in The Salvation Army’s Weekend of Prayer for Victims of Sexual Trafficking in Toronto on September 25 and will bring awareness to this modern-day slavery at The Salvation Army’s Hope in the City Breakfast in Vancouver on December 3. Timea will also be giving an educational presentation during the Toronto International Sex Crime Seminar hosted by various Canadian police departments in October 2009.
The Salvation Army and Human Trafficking
Fighting the evil of sex-trade trafficking remains high on the agenda of the worldwide Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army works against trafficking through awareness and education, and by offering safe houses for victims. Professional and caring long-term rehabilitation gives hope to those who have been trapped into the dangerous life of sexual slavery, drug addiction and debt bondage.
For more information on The Salvation Army’s response to human trafficking, visit Salvationist.ca/trafficking.