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House of horrors - how many more of these prisons in Northern Ireland?

By Victoria Leonard

A Women's Aid worker says she fears there could be similar cases to the horrific Keith Baker sex abuse crimes happening in other parts of Northern Ireland.

Noelle Collins, team leader of Belfast and Lisburn Women's Aid, manages the Department of Justice contract for female victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland.

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"Human trafficking is certainly a rising problem, and we would mainly deal with foreign nationals from Eastern Europe and African Countries," she revealed. "Internal trafficking of UK nationals wouldn't be common but it isn't unheard of. It can happen in Northern Ireland or anywhere - if someone is moved to be abused for trafficking from one village to another, or one town to another."

She recalled: "I have been at a PSNI presentation which showed a door in a brothel which they had raided in south Belfast.

"Someone had been digging their nails into the door to get the lock off, and they found human nails in that door.

"When you meet these young women who are totally traumatised, many have been on this journey for years, and many men have abused them.

"It's not necessarily that a woman is vulnerable because of a learning disability - for example, some woman get into a relationship in their home town and think this person really cares about them, and they say they will take them somewhere else and promise them a better life."

When asked what she believes the extent of the problem to be in Northern Ireland, Noelle responded: "How long is a piece of string?

"You can only deal with what you have in front of you.

"Like domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual exploitation are all hidden crimes, you don't know when you're going to get to the bottom of them.

"People would be horrified to think this is happening in Northern Ireland, but it would be my fear that this is happening in other parts of Northern Ireland."

Noelle said that in today's society, it can be difficult for people to identify victims of human trafficking living nearby. "We are living in a society where community spirit is not like it was years ago. So many houses are transitory. People don't pick up on it."

Maddi O'Neill is service manager for Victim Support NI's Belfast hub, which offers support services to victims of sexual violence. She said: "Sexual predators may look for vulnerabilities like learning difficulties, people who are easy to control or who will keep quiet, or won't have the level of understanding to know it's wrong.

"I find all types of sexual violence shocking, it's the worst thing you can do to a human being, but to keep someone locked up and take their freedom is very horrific. It's always a possibility other people in Northern Ireland could be suffering like this.

"There are always bad people who want to do bad things to vulnerable people. They aren't lurking around every corner, but reporting of sexual violence is on the increase."

Maddi believes Keith Baker's victim will need intensive support to overcome her horrific ordeal: "It's not just the sexual violence, it's the captivity - I imagine she will need counselling to overcome the trauma.

"Some people can get through it and it makes them stronger, other people don't have good coping or support mechanisms and may need to work for the rest of their lives.

"We would start with a comprehensive assessment of the victim's needs, and they would have support from our Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs).

"We wrap support around a person so they don't have to go to 10 different agencies.

"In this woman's case, it would probably involve looking at her physical health needs first before her mental health needs. Her primary needs are shelter, somewhere secure to live, access to food and water," she added.

Meanwhile, DUP peer Lord Morrow has repeated his call for an enquiry into how the Baker case was able to occur in the first place and continue undetected for so long.

He stated: "No-one but the Bakers knew of this vulnerable woman's pathetic existence.

"She received no medical or dental treatment throughout her incarceration.

"On being rescued, she was frail, malnourished and extensively traumatised.

"One has to ask, what would have happened if she had become gravely ill or indeed outlived her usefulness in satisfying the perverse requirements of two such callous, controlling, self-indulgent individuals?

"I am continuing to press for an enquiry into all aspects of this case, in particular the failures of multiple agencies in England.

"Whilst it is accepted the like of such a case has mercifully never been encountered to this level before, there is no escaping from the fact [that] if concerns had been properly acted upon, this woman may not have endured tortuous years at the hands of unscrupulous persons.

"That cannot be permitted to simply be marked up as an oversight."

A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust stated: "The Trust does not comment on individuals due to patient/client confidentiality."

Women's Aid's 24-hour Domestic Violence helpline can be contacted on 0808 8021 414. To make an appointment with Victim Support NI in Belfast, phone 028 9024 3133. For Foyle, phone 028 71 37 0086

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