Law Text Culture


In September 2007 in Trafalgar Square, London, a trafficked woman’s bedroom was recreated as part of an exhibition, The Journey, organised by Helen Bamber to raise public awareness on the condition of trafficked women for sexual exploitation. A blood-stained bed moving up and down automatically, a brush and perfumes, a small mirror with ‘help me’ written on it, and a blonde wig were the details of that tiny unglamorous room shown to the public. The function and scope of the exhibition was far from ‘artistic’. The exhibition aimed to raise consciousness that human beings, mainly women, are trafficked into rich destination countries, such as Britain, to be used in the sex industry as sexual objects to be consumed cheaply. If these women are imported in Britain is because there are people willing to consume the product. The ‘room’ of the exhibition becomes the iconic place where the victim is held against her will to perform sexual duties under duress. The room therefore functions as a crime scene: this contained physical space is the prison of an enslaved human being, repeatedly abused physically, sexually and mentally. However, it is questioned how the reconstruction of this crime scene can be perceived by the public. It is argued that the exhibit can evoke different responses. Visitors animate the space with imagined crimes (repeated violent crimes, rapes) in the silent absence of the victim; and they can imagine as much or as little as they want or can, based on their knowledge.