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How immigrants are lured into prostitution in Russia

People who have been subjected to sexual violence and exploitation rarely appeal to the police in Russia for help.

JAMnews, Novaya Gazeta

Around 800,000 people in Russia are currently caught up in modern slavery

The Global Slavery Index defines modern slavery as any form of exploitation, coerced by threats, violence and abuse of authority.

Experts say that half of these cases involve sexual exploitation.

People who have been subjected to sexual violence and exploitation rarely appeal to the police for help. Those who decide to do so are often dismissed and/or humiliated. However, there are some cases that give cause for hope.

Trickery and rape

At the beginning of January 2018, 20-year-old Uzbek migrant Umida was called by a stranger who presented himself as Dmitry.

He said that he had found her number via Anna – to whom Umida had allegedly said she was willing to sell her virginity. Umida says that she had spoken online to an individual by the name of Anna Rothschild out of curiosity, but had already forgotten about the incident by the time she received Dmitry’s call.

Dmitry insisted that they meet. Umida eventually caved, and agreed to meet him by a Moscow metro station. Dmitry was in a car.

“The strangest thing was that he asked whether I had anyone who would protect me if something were to happen.”

Dmitry said that they’d go for coffee, and then he’d bring Umida home. Then, Umida says, he sprayed something in the car and she felt sick.

Umida says that after this she didn’t even notice how he had managed to get her to his home, to an apartment on the third floor. In the apartment, Umida saw a red-headed boy, whom Dmitry referred to as his brother.

Dmitry first demanded that she sign a document claiming she had come voluntarily to provide sexual services. After she refused, he said that he had paid for her and that she owed him money.

She asked for them to give her time until the morning, but they raped her: first Dmitry, and then the red-head.

“I didn’t think there was any way that I would survive that day. But I wanted to live. I wanted to leave that place and punish them for what they did,” says Umida.

They called her a cab. She asked the taxi driver for the address. At home, she took a shower and slept.

Blackmail

The next day, Umida tried to remember what had happened. She couldn’t. She remembered meeting some man at the metro. It was her rapist who would eventually help her remember what happened.

“He called me in the evening and started threatening me. I didn’t even know what rape was nor what to do in this case. I didn’t know that I had to write to the police. I didn’t even think about it,” Umida says.

Dmitry threatened her daily, demanding money from her. He said that he had captured her rape on video and that he would send it to her brother in prison where there are “thirty people per cell phone”.

Then he took the blackmail to the next level:

“He said: ‘Since you don’t have money, you’ll work for us.’ And he told me to work as a prostitute.”

Umida wrote about what happened to her in a group on a social media website called “I’m not afraid to tell”. Soon, she received an answer.

Umida by the VDNKh metro station where she met Dmitry and got into his car. Photo: Viktoria Odissonova / Novaya Gazeta

A family business

“A girl wrote to me with the same story. It looked as if it might have been the same man. She sent me a picture of Dmitry and said that his real name was Egor Shushkin. She didn’t know more than that.”

Umida later found out that the Anna Rotschild she had spoken to was actually a woman named Olesya Sushkina – Egor’s wife. They had two children.

They also found the red-head: a 22-year-old boy named Sergey Demin, a student at a Moscow university.

Umida found 12 other victims who had been raped over the past three years.

Most of the victims did not go to the police, allegedly because Shushkin had forced them to sign documents like the one mentioned above.

Five of them told Umida that they tried to appeal to the police, but that they threatened to imprison them for prostitution (when in fact there is no criminal prosecution for providing such sexual services in Russia, only an administrative violation).

Umida went to the police, the prosecutor’s office and other similar bodies, but everywhere she turned she was refused help. Trying to achieve some semblance of justice, she called hotlines that offered counseling.

Once, Umida’s mother called her in a panic. She had received a phone call from Shushkin who threatened to kill Umida. He offered to pay them money if they stopped their efforts to receive justice.

“I said okay and I went to the investigator myself. I told them to let him come himself with the money, and then they can arrest him.”

On identifying Shushkin, Umida says he smiled as if nothing had happened, and that he said that he had never seen her before. However, both Shushkin and Demin were arrested for rape.

“Five months have gone by, but the investigation hasn’t gone anywhere,” Umida says. “Now, they’ve transferred the case from the district office to that of the oblast because I wrote a letter of complaint. Only after that did they refer me for a forensic medical examination.”

Novaya Gazeta reports that as of now, Sergey Demin and Egor Shushkin have been charged with several counts of rape and violence.

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