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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual exploitation by organised networks Investigation Report

Contents

Pen portraits

CS-A12

CS-A12[1] described her stepfather’s regular violence towards her and her mother. At age 12, she started running away from her home. She self-harmed and was treated for depression.

Shortly afterwards, in the mid-2000s, CS-A12 was placed in residential care. She said that staff “just left me basically to do what I wanted”.[2] She explained how she met adult men who gave her alcohol and drugs and sexually exploited her over the following three to four years:

they pretended that I was part of their family. They gave me what I was lacking at the care home. They gave me somewhere where I felt like I belonged and somewhere where I felt like I was wanted”.[3]

Police often stopped cars in which CS-A12 was with her abusers. She told us that while the police often asked her age and identified that she was missing from care, no action was taken against the men. She said she was regularly told that she was wasting police time:

one police officer told me I was what was going wrong in our society and that I was the type of person that was bringing about a bad society … Another one said that we were going to get these men in trouble because we wanted to act like child prostitutes”.[4]

CS-A12 said that the care home staff knew that she and other girls were being given alcohol and drugs by adult men. Staff helped one girl to select an outfit for a ‘date’ with a 30-year-old male. They missed many opportunities to end the abuse, for example, when the men bought CS-A12 gifts or dropped her off at the care home when drunk. Instead, she said:

I was told by the staff that I was attention seeking and stuff like that, which I probably was, to be honest, I probably was … crying for help, trying to get someone to notice that something wasn’t right, but no-one ever paid attention. I were just treated like I was disgusting for doing it, not that there was a reason behind me doing it.[5]

CS-A12 received a number of criminal convictions. One related to possession of a bladed article. She told us that this resulted from her chasing a man with a bread knife after he had assaulted her, leaving her with “bust lips and a bust nose, a black eye and … fingerprint marks around my arms and my throat”.[6] She felt that the police, prosecutors and judges failed to see that her behaviour was a result of her exploitation.

CS-A371

CS-A371[7] explained that both her parents were heroin addicts. Drug users would often visit her childhood home. She was taken into foster care when she was 10 years old, in around 2003.

At the age of 11, CS-A371 was being supplied with drugs and by 12 she was self-harming. She told us she was given alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes by adult men who took her to flats and introduced her to their friends. She said that from the age of 13 she was regularly sexually exploited; when she was drunk the men would penetrate her with their fingers and have vaginal or oral sex with her. CS-A371 believed the men showed her the affection and love that was otherwise lacking in her life. She saw the men as her friends.

A police investigation into CS-A371’s exploitation commenced in 2010 and a number of adult males were prosecuted in 2013 and 2014. CS-A371 gave evidence at the trial, which she said was “very much like I was being bullied”.[8] She described being blamed and demeaned by defence barristers. They accused her of being racist and “a slag” and said repeatedly that she had wanted sex with the perpetrators and had lied about her age.

I believe the reason I suffered from sexual exploitation over such a long period was because social workers had no empathy with me and my experience … They took the view that I was making my own choices when, in reality, I was trapped in a horrendous situation and needed help … They repeatedly describe me as engaging in risky behaviour as if the situation was my fault and my choice.[9]

CS-A317

For much of her childhood, CS-A317[10] was in care in a number of council-run children’s homes.

She described being sexually abused and exploited from 2003, when she was 14. Her abusers gave her alcohol and drugs and made her have sexual intercourse with adult men. CS-A317 told us that the staff within the children’s homes were “aware that she was having sex with an older male” but were dismissive and took no action to protect her.[11] In her view, the care home staff failed to protect her and colluded with her abusers by suggesting they collect her by car near to the children’s home rather than directly outside it.

She said the abuse escalated and, when she was 18 years old, she was raped by the main perpetrator of her exploitation. No action was taken by the police, who considered that she had consented. She had a breakdown and tried to take her own life. CS-A317 felt that “it was easier for the police to criminalise the children rather than go after the abusing adults”.[12]

CS-A317 was contacted later by the National Crime Agency (NCA) regarding the exploitation she experienced as a teenager. As a result of that investigation, the perpetrator was convicted of sexual activity with a child and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. CS-A317 found the overall experience with the NCA team “very positive”.[13] However, several features of the trial distressed CS-A317: a female officer involved during evidence-gathering was unable, for unavoidable reasons, to remain involved in the case until its conclusion. At the sentencing hearing, she was required to sit in the public gallery in direct sight of her abuser. Immediately after the offender was sentenced, she was confronted by the defendant’s family and friends who verbally attacked and threatened her.[14]

CS-A372

CS-A372[15] told us she grew up in a family where there was neglect and domestic violence. She felt desperate for affection and was bullied at school. She was first raped in around 2007, when she was aged 12, by a 16-year-old boy. Her mother reported this to police and the boy was prosecuted and convicted of rape.

Subsequently, CS-A372 was introduced to a man aged around 30, who she believes was involved in drug dealing and prostitution. He gave her gifts and was kind to her. However, she told us that he expected her to have sex with him and later demanded that she have sex with other men. She self-harmed and took several overdoses.

By the time she was 13, CS-A372’s home life was increasingly violent and chaotic. She told us she was assaulted by her father who also threatened to prostitute her. She ran away and was regularly picked up by the police, to whom she reported the sexual abuse she had experienced. When she was interviewed about a rape in 2009, she was too traumatised to explain what had happened to her. CS-A372 does not consider that the police took meaningful steps to protect her.

CS-A372 told us that children’s social care opened and closed her case on multiple occasions, despite their knowledge of her history of overdoses, chaotic domestic conditions and sexual exploitation. Her records show that one of the decisions to close her case and take no further action was on the basis that children’s social care thought that she was “putting herself at risk”.[16]

CS-A372 described, in June 2009, aged 14, being forced by an associate of the 30-year-old who had previously exploited her to perform oral sex on more than 20 adult men. This was also filmed. A number of men were charged, although the charges were later dropped.

She also told us that, a few months later, she was abducted by a group of men and forced to perform oral sex on 23 men while a gun was held to her head. She was also raped.

Afterwards, CS-A372 was placed back in care, having earlier returned to live with her mother. She tried to cooperate with police investigations but felt very conflicted and she repeatedly self-harmed.

CS-A372 considered that she was failed by the police and children’s social care and that there was a lack of coordination between agencies tasked with protecting her.

CS-A373

CS-A373[17] told us that she experienced domestic violence as a young child and felt rejected at home. She started to associate with older girls and men in the area where she lived. She repeatedly went missing from home but was found by the police and returned to her mother.

In around 2007, when CS-A373 was 12, an adult in the group she was associating with gave cannabis to her, forced her to perform oral sex and raped her. Six months later, she disclosed the rape to a relative. The police were informed but no charges were brought.

At the age of 13, CS-A373 required hospitalisation after she was given drugs by a local man. Children’s social care intervened and she was placed in temporary care. She was moved to several different foster care placements. She was later placed in a care home out of the area.

In February 2011, when she was 15, CS-A373 met a 26-year-old man. Having told care home staff that he was 18, she was allowed to continue to meet him. She described meeting another adult male who gave her alcohol and cannabis before raping her. She reported this to the police. He was cautioned for having sex with a child under 16. She was not provided with support or counselling following the rape and took an overdose.

CS-A373 repeatedly went missing and was taken home by the police without any enquiry as to why she was running away. CS-A373 felt that the police and children’s social care had very little or no empathy for her, made no real attempt to understand her experiences and did not properly assess the risks she faced.

CS-A435

CA-A435’s[18] parents separated before he was 10 years old. He continued to live with his mother, who was an alcoholic. CA-A435 increasingly argued with his mother over what he perceived as her poor care of him and his sibling.

CS-A435 had been aware that he was attracted to men since the age of 10. Between the ages of 16 and 18 he gradually disclosed this to most of the people in his life.

At the age of 16, CS-A435 became homeless due to a breakdown in his relationship with his mother. He was accommodated in a youth homeless hostel. At around this time, CS-A435 accompanied two other boys to the home of a 41-year-old man, who had contacted one of the boys and invited him to stay with him. The man showed the boys pornography and gave them alcohol. He attempted to kiss one of the boys and they asked to leave. In 2009, as a consequence of this incident, CS-A435 was assessed by his local authority as being a child at risk of sexual exploitation.

Between the ages of 17 and 18, CS-A435 was seriously assaulted by a group of other boys. He became too scared to live in his flat and so became homeless. He began to frequent a local park to meet older men who could give him accommodation in exchange for sex. At the same time, a number of people in CS-A435’s peer group began sexually touching him in his sleep. CS-A435 felt that he had no choice but to allow this because these people provided him with a sense of security.

CS-A435 has described the care provided by his local authority children’s social care as “unequivocally low”.[19] He only met his social worker once in 18 months and felt that life-altering decisions were made about him without his involvement.

‘Daisy’

In 2004, at age 12, Daisy[20] befriended a girl whose mother took drugs and was involved in prostitution. Daisy was supplied with alcohol and went missing. She was introduced to a group of adult men and would drink heavily with them in a flat. She told us that she first saw this as friendship but when she was 13 they started to sexually exploit her. Men who were 10 or 12 years older than her told her they were her boyfriends and that they were in love. Daisy became pregnant at 14 and had an abortion. She describes being “passed around” for sex by between 100 and 150 men.[21]

Daisy was well-known to the police by the time she was 13 years old. She was arrested and charged on a number of occasions with offences such as being drunk and disorderly or assault. She described these as being committed in the context of the abuse she was experiencing. Daisy said she disclosed the abuse to the police. On one occasion, officers told her they could not take further action because Daisy did not know the perpetrators’ names. When she appeared at the youth offenders court in Rochdale, aged 15, her solicitor tried to explain the abuse she was experiencing but no investigation was conducted. Instead, Daisy was sentenced to four months in a young offender institution. On her release, the cycle of abuse and arrests continued.

In 2008, Daisy was approached by police officers who were primarily interested in abuse experienced by another girl. Daisy gave evidence at the trial in 2012. Nine of the 11 men were convicted of child sexual offences. Daisy described feeling overwhelmed and alone. She struggled to cope. She told us that, weeks after the trial, she reported to the police that she had been threatened and harassed, and that her home had been broken into, but she was given no support.

‘Child A’

Child A[22] was referred to Barnardo’s at age 14, having experienced sexual and physical abuse within his family. At 15, he was made to leave his family home by his mother. He stayed with various members of his extended family until moving into shared youth housing at 16. He became a victim of child sexual exploitation through the drugs party scene but minimised this when he first met with Barnardo’s, although later described his experiences. Child A has since been able to enter education and live independently. He reports that he has not been subjected to sexual exploitation since this time.

‘Greg’

At 12 years old, Greg[23] was groomed by a 26-year-old male, who initially told him he was 18. The first contact was online and Greg met the man in person after two weeks. Greg said that the man made him feel like he was in an intimate relationship. He listened to Greg and agreed with him when Greg told him how unfair his life was. He introduced Greg to other adult males, who Greg believed were “the only people he had” and that they liked him for being himself. They began to order Greg to go to various places and have sex with other men, paying for train tickets and taxi rides. Greg said the abuse he experienced became more severe and sadistic, as he was put into increasingly dangerous situations.

CS-A1

CS-A1, the daughter of CS-A2, was subjected to child sexual exploitation. CS-A2 described seeking assistance from children’s social care in 2014 due to concerns about CS-A1’s “challenging” behaviour. CS-A2 was seeking advice on how to address it.[24] CS-A1 was taken into foster care in 2016 on a voluntary basis when she was 13 years old and was accommodated in 14 different placements, during which time she became a victim of child sexual exploitation, including engaging in sexual activity with older males and sexual communication with perpetrators.[25] She was found in hotel rooms on a number of occasions in 2018 with an adult male. CS-A2 considered that digital evidence suggested that intercourse had taken place. However, no charges were brought.[26]

CS-A2 considered that her daughter’s placements were “wholly inappropriate”. One of the girls with whom CS-A1 was placed introduced her to a network of older abusers.[27] CS-A2 expressed frustration at the time taken by the local authority to appreciate the nature of the risk to CS-A1:

it’s ironic that while the professionals had finally come to the conclusion that CS-A1 was at a sufficient threshold of risk of [child sexual exploitation], that sadly, in all likelihood, she had probably already been abused by this point”.[28]

CS-A2 also referred to the trauma that she and her husband had been through as they watched helplessly as their daughter was sexually exploited and abused. She felt there were times she and her husband were portrayed in a negative light for no apparent purpose.[29] Her experience was that parents like her simply do not know how to raise concerns when they arise because the route to raising concerns is not clearly set out to them, especially at a time of turmoil. Her counsel described the process as:

more like a tangled web that CS-A2 and her husband had to navigate and persevere with rather than a clear path to follow in order to be able to articulate their genuine concerns about what was happening to their daughter”.[30]

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