Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Girl, 11, endured 'horrific' sex trafficking ordeal

The girl was moved around locations across Sheffield for sex

A woman whose 11-year-old daughter was targeted by a human trafficking ring in South Yorkshire has spoken of her family's "absolutely horrific" ordeal.

The mother, known only as Angela, described how her daughter was used for sex, being moved between flats and hotels in Sheffield.

She said a group of young men - who her daughter met through fellow pupils - used threats and violence to control the girl's behaviour for three years.

When Angela tried to intervene in the situation to help the girl her family was threatened.

She told the BBC men would tell her daughter that they were going to kill her family or burn down the house.

We found out that these men were taking them and using them for sex. All these girls were under 13 years of age
Angela, the girl's mother

According to one charity, the girl is one of at least 400 families in the UK, affected by sexual exploitation in the last five years.

"They frightened her to such an extent that she really daren't do anything other that what they said," Angela said.

She described how her daughter initially believed the men were aged around 16 years old, and considered them her boyfriends, but soon realised they were older.

"What she soon realised was that none of them were genuine and they were handing her around from one to the other," Angela said.

"She said she was dealing with it, always kept saying she was dealing with it, she knew what she was doing."

However the girl managed to escape her mother's attempts to keep her safe.

"We'd lock all the doors and windows and she would actually manage to get through an upstairs window, she would jump out," Angela said.

At this time she started following her daughter when she left the house.

'Five-hour battles'

"We found out that these men were taking them and using them for sex. They were taking them to flats around the city. All these girls were under 13 years of age," she said.

"We didn't know what these men looked like which was the most scary thing because it was like being terrorised as a family by faceless individuals."

She said that her daughter started going missing for days at a time, and on one occasion for an entire week.

"We would have five-hour battles in the hall trying to stop her leaving the house, but at some point they have to go to school," she said.

Eventually, when Angela's daughter was 14 years old police involvement ended the girl's ordeal. No prosecutions were ever brought.

"It was absolutely horrific," Angela said. "Even thinking about it now makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end."

Teenage 'rebellion'

Catherine Tatman of the Leeds-based charity Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP) said that grooming could affect people from all socio-economic backgrounds.

The charity has helped more than 400 families which have been affected by sexual exploitation in the last five years.

She added that signs of grooming could start off looking like normal signs of teenage rebellion.

"It may just be that they begin to come back in late, that they begin to experiment with alcohol or drugs," she said.

She added that other signs included dropping out of school and getting new possessions including mobile phones.

"It's a combination of lots of different factors which would really make you thinking that something above the ordinary is going on," she said.

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