By Kieran Guilbert
LONDON, Nov 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Male survivors of slavery in Britain are often overlooked compared with female victims because shame stops many men speaking out and seeking support, campaigners said on Monday.
Men who have been enslaved are less likely than women to recognise their ordeal as a crime or report it to authorities, leaving them isolated, vulnerable to drug abuse and at risk of being re-trafficked, according to the British charity Hestia.
"It's much more difficult to get men to engage after slavery - they are more likely to write it off as just a bad employment experience, even in cases of brutality," Patrick Ryan, chief executive of Hestia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Men tend to face more of a struggle than women to recover, and not dealing with this can create a risk of re-trafficking," said Ryan of Hestia, which provides refuge and support for victims of domestic abuse and modern slavery, mainly in London.
London is a hub for slavery, according to Hestia, which said it had helped 30 percent more victims this year than in 2016, when it supported about 625 slaves - a fifth of whom were men.
More than nine in 10 of the total victims showed symptoms of mental health issues ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while at least half had thought about self-harming, the charity said in a report.
Male survivors are reluctant to seek out support services, share their experiences or connect with other victims, and even accept money to help them rebuild their lives, Hestia said.
"It is hard – every time I tell my story I feel people do not believe me because I am a man, and should not have fallen into this situation," one victim, Juan, told the charity.
The Salvation Army, an international Christian charity, runs a number of refuges and said it was tailoring support for male slavery victims - including building and gardening projects.
"Men don't want to be seen as victims ... it is a challenge to their self-esteem," said Kathryn Taylor, deputy director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery at the charity. "It is important to empower men, to foster their sense of self-worth."
At least 13,000 people across Britain are estimated by the government to be victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude - but police say the true figure could be in the tens of thousands with slavery operations on the rise.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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