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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 10:30 GMT
'They pick on vulnerable girls'
By Ben Ando
BBC News

"Emma" - sex trafficking victim
Emma spoke to the BBC with her identity concealed

The problem of young British girls being lured into prostitution is to be investigated by the Home Office. Among the victims was 13-year-old Emma.

When she first fell in with a gang it seemed great.

Emma had a new boyfriend who gave her jewellery and mobile phones, took her for drives and gave her alcohol and cannabis.

It seemed the height of teenage rebellion, but she did not realise the "gifts" were a way of controlling her.

After a few weeks, Emma was introduced by her boyfriend to some older men.

It was quickly made clear she was expected to have sex with them.

"I don't think you realise until it's too late what's really happening. When you're only 13 and a child you don't see danger like you do when you're older," Emma said.

'So scared'

Soon Emma was spending all her time with the older "cousins", "friends" and "uncles".
They always choose vulnerable girls
"Emma"

She said: "There was one older man in particular who started to groom me and I used to have to do what he said or he'd hit me and stuff.

"It got so I'd have to go and meet him or they'd threaten to bomb the house or kidnap me.

"I was so scared it got to where I felt it was better that I go and meet him even if I knew he was going to rape me."

Emma's involvement with the gang lasted a year and during that time she estimates she had sex with dozens of men.

She also says she was not the youngest girl involved.

"I saw several other girls when I was in the flats used by the men. The youngest I saw was probably ten."

'Flattered'

Emma feels she and the others were picked on because they were easy targets.

She said: "They always choose vulnerable girls.

"Obviously if you're streetwise you'll pick up on it, but if you're a bit sheltered and they buy you little things or take you to McDonalds when you're 12 or 13, then you're flattered by it because you're getting attention off someone.

"You feel as though they're your friend. They have nice clothes, nice cars, they're well groomed, so it looks as though they've got money."
It took away my teenage years. I never had a teenage life

Once under the men's control, she found it hard to break away.

"You've got no self-esteem or self-respect because they take that away from you.

"For someone to rape you [again and again] doesn't hurt as much as when they raped you the first time because you haven't got anything anyway. You feel that sex means nothing," she said.

'Starting from scratch'

Emma's experiences have affected her badly. It has taken her many hours of counselling to realise what happened was not her fault.

"I had depression for a long time. I was on medication and didn't want to go out of the house, didn't trust anybody. I always felt physically ill. I had no confidence or anything.

"It's like starting from scratch again."

No-one has ever been prosecuted in connection with what happened to Emma.

She is trying to get on with her life, but feels cheated of her youth.

"I was a straight-A student at school. All that changed. It took away my chance of getting A-levels and going to university.

"It took away my teenage years. I never had a teenage life."

We have changed Emma's name to protect her identity.

Ben.Ando-Internet@bbc.co.uk

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