Youth worker: 'She'd go at night to be with the only people she trusted: her abusers'

A youth worker from the north of England, writing anonymously, recalls being powerless to help a girl in care to escape from the men exploiting her

Share

My case list, like those of youth workers across the small former mill towns clustered between Manchester and the Pennines, contains girls damaged almost beyond repair by sexual exploitation. The reach of their predators, or men very like them, is known from as far north as Lancaster down to Liverpool.

I met my first "abused by many" child more than five years ago, just after I was moved into the area. She was 14 and on the couch in her care home, having refused to attend her appointment at my office, full of angry street bravado, that hardened gloss that masks, to herself and others, her deep vulnerability.

I listened as she eventually told me that the one good thing in her chaotic life was her new boyfriend, whom she had recently met, having moved into the area only a few weeks previously. She confided that he bought her presents, including her latest mobile phone, which she displayed with enthusiasm. On being asked how she had met him she told me she was introduced to him by a girl she had met on moving into this, her latest children's home.

She admitted the boyfriend supplied her and her newly acquired friends with alcohol and cannabis at parties, calling her on her new phone. So when he suggested that if she really loved him, really wanted to make him happy, she would sleep with his brother, his cousin, his uncle, his friend, she agreed. Again and again. The vodka and drugs she saw as a reward, not a necessity to numb her mind and her young body, although I was sure that would come later.

This was a young girl, a child taken into local authority care after being abused from an early age by the boyfriends of her drug-dependent mother. This, for her, was how loving relationships worked.

Unfortunately, conversations with colleagues proved she wasn't an isolated case. This was almost par for the course for area's looked-after children.

I took her case to my manager, to the manager of her care home and to Children's Social Care. The police, I was told, were aware of her situation. The residential social workers confirmed that when she absconded, they could only report her as missing and their duty of care was to inform the local police, but given the restrictions that applied to looked-after children they were unable to do anything more.

They were not allowed to lock her in at night and could not even demonstrate their affection for her, as hugging is not allowed. She decamped at night to be with the only people she trusted: the men who were trafficking and abusing her.

The police had on more than one occasion had to carry her back to the home in the early hours of the morning, incapacitated with drink. But "our hands are tied", I was told, until the police decided to take more action, or until the girl could be persuaded to press charges – against her "boyfriend".

After a couple of months of frustrating appointments during which she would scream and swear at me for even suggesting her new friends and boyfriend may not have her best interests at heart, she was moved on – back to the "care" of her mother, I was told. Just one more move in her pillar-to-post existence.

The police, in the meantime, were speaking to local imams, but to what end I was unable to determine. Even now, years on, I cannot shake the feeling that someone, somewhere decided children like her were a reasonable sacrifice to make for peaceful community relations.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home