| My story of exploitation & the CJS

At the age of 13, an older male began to sexually exploit me. My number was shared with multiple men living in the same City but also other cities across the country. At the age of 17, one of the accomplices of the man who began to exploit me when I was 13, told me that he would keep me safe and I believed him. Reflecting back now, I feel as if I was naive in believing him but I had been groomed for years, I had witnessed and been exposed to things no teenage girl should ever witness and I was in an awful situation – all I wanted was to be safe, so when this man said he could keep me safe, I swept it up.

I was in a relationship for a few months with this man and then I moved in with him. I left my family home and I then had no contact with any of my family members for 3 years. My family reported me missing and told the police I was with a man who had been involved in the abuse when I was younger – their concerns were ignored. When I moved in, I noticed a difference in this man. He was emotionally abusive which then turned into physical abuse. 2 weeks after I’d been living with him, one of his friends came round whilst he was at the shop. He physically and sexually assaulted me. At the time I did not know it had been planned by my ‘boyfriend’, I was just so shuck up.

This assault led to two and a half years of me being sexually exploited, physically tortured, injected with drugs and being trafficked around the country. A lot of my exploiters were involved in organised criminal gangs – drugs, fraud, weapons etc and they were terrifying. Having a gun held to my head was a weekly occurrence. They had links to men in positions of power, including solicitors and police officers. One certain police officer who was regularly involved with the exploitation always used to say that if I ever went to the police, he’d ensure that I would get arrested for wasting police time and lying and that he had higher connections in the police force.

Nearly two years ago on Facebook, I saw my local newspaper publish an article. The man who first sexually exploited me when I was 13 had been charged with a similar offence and was sent to prison. I was physically sick when I saw his photo. The exploitation was awful at this time, the worst it had ever been but also the domestic violence between me and my ‘boyfriend’ was increasing. I knew I wanted to go to the police but I was so scared of what the men had said to me would happen to me if I went to the police about the ongoing abuse. Also, I had no support around me, apart from my ‘boyfriend’.

I only disclosed to the police the historic abuse to begin with. But then things got worse. I left my ‘boyfriend’ and tried to cut off all contact with the men. I disclosed everything to the police, how I was terrified for my safety and for getting arrested because that’s what had been engrained in me. The police investigation to begin with was slow but the way it was handled was shocking. The man who exploited me when I was 13 was released from prison early, not even serving half of his sentence – I was told 3 weeks after that he had been released early and the OIC had the cheek to say, he’s living in the same town. Safety concerns dismissed, they’re only ‘puppy dogs’ the OIC always said about the men – I cannot describe how patronising this was – puppy dogs who trafficked me around the country, held guns to my head whilst being gang raped, beat me black and blue leaving me unconscious, injecting me with drugs. I witnessed these men stab people in front of me if someone didn’t give them £20 for a score and other horrific things – I had lived it for years, I knew what they were capable of.

I moved area again. I changed my number nine times, only close friends and family having it. I bought a new car. But things kept on happening, compromising my safety. I got death letters. Men kept on getting my new number. My new car got keyed, not just scratched but threatening messages. I then thought how can this keep on happening? I raised it with the OIC that I think it was someone in the force doing it because there was no other explanation. The OIC dismissed it. I raised it again and again after things kept on happening and then she said she’d discuss it with the senior officer to make my case information & all personal details only accessible to her and her senior officer. This never happened though. A marker did not get put on my flat until 9 months into the investigation. I was labelled racist, a prostitute, just there to cause trouble.

With the help of a charity, my case was reviewed by Operation Hydrant and at the time, the National lead for child protection including the investigation of historic and current abuse. The OIC was took off the case, two new officers were tasked to deal with it. To begin with they were good and they got things moving quickly. I didn’t trust them, how could I trust them after the way everything had been dealt with. My safety was a big issue. I was assaulted and ended up in a safe house for a long period. The day I was assaulted, police refused to come out to see me. The police only came out after my ISVA contacted the local MP who then contacted the Chief of the police force who then sent two senior officers to speak to me. As a victim of trafficking, the police should have referred me into the NRM system – they didn’t, leaving the risk of me becoming exploited again extremely high. A social worker eventually referred me into the NRM and I am awaiting my conclusive grounds decision.

There is so much more to my story and police corruption but I know I’ve already written so much. There have been no charges made against my perpetrators, despite mobile & computer evidence, SARC samples, photos of injuries, men telling different stories when interviewed etc. The case is soon to be closed. For a long time the police have wanted me to do more ABE interviews, I have refused. I have done 2 – retelling your story is like you’re reliving it again. I also know that not many sexual offences get to court so I refuse to put myself through any more trauma. Throughout the whole CJS process,I have felt like I’ve been the one in trouble – my whole life has been examined like I am the criminal. Yes I should have spoken up sooner, yes I should have just got away but even though I am now an adult, for years that is all I knew, I had been cut off from everyone and I was terrified.

The trauma I have gone through as a result of the exploitation and the CJS is indescribable. I have complex ptsd and struggle with debilitating flashbacks. There’s ongoing safety concerns, I never feel safe and in the future always believe that I’ll be looking over my shoulder. I’m now back in touch with my family but the failures from the police and the trauma we have experienced has affected all of us. Knowing that my perpetrators are still out there, committing the same horrific crimes to children and other vulnerable adults makes me feel sick. The fact that people in positions of power are still out there hidden in plain sight involved in these crimes makes me feel even more sick. I am currently studying to go into a profession where I can hopefully use my experiences to help others. I feel like my identity has been ripped apart by these men, they broke me and there still are days when I feel broken but I do not want them to take away anymore from me. If I can help people who have experienced similar issues to me see that they are strong and that they are capable of living a fulfilling life despite the trauma they’ve experienced, then I’ll be happy.

I know that not all police officers are bad or corrupt. For example the first police officer who did my ABE interview who was doing an overtime shift and was not involved with the investigation – he made me feel at ease, he spoke to me like I was a human being, spoke about his own kids and even came outside with me to smoke during breaks during the interview. I do not want individuals who have experienced any form of abuse or crime, whether it be perpetrated by a police officer or not, to feel as if they cannot contact the police. What I would say though is that you need to make sure you have support around you to guide you through the process because it’s one hell of a difficult journey.

Constabulary: West Midlands Police

Timespan: 2010-2021

Did you report it to the police?: Yes

Your ethnicity: White British

Have you experienced suicidality due to this?: Attempted suicide more than once

Are you disabled as defined under the Equality Act 2010?: No

Illustration by Danny Noble

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