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


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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas