Page last updated at 06:04 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 07:04 UK
Daughter groomed by gang - a mother's story

Woman generic
Mother A does not want to be identified due to safety concerns

A Shropshire mother who believes her child was groomed by a gang in the county is supporting BBC Shropshire's Turning the Stone campaign.

The campaign aims to inform people about the sexual exploitation of children going on in the county, and give parents advice on where to turn for help.

As part of the investigation BBC Shropshire reporter Andy Giddings spoke to a mother whose daughter had a lucky escape. The identity of the family has been protected for their safety. This is their story and it is typical of cases around the UK.

"She was bright and bubbly. She was very strong willed. She was gorgeous. Just full of life," that's how Mother A describes her daughter before the grooming process began. But when she was 16 things started to change.

Her daughter began struggling to go to school, she wasn't interested in taking her exams and she slowly became excluded from her group of friends. Mother A thought she was just behaving like a normal teenager, until two policemen turned up on the doorstep.

Unknown world

"From that point we were plunged into pretty much a nightmare, wondering what was going on? Where we were going? Who we could turn to? What was reality? What we were just making up because we were panicking?

"It was such an unknown world, and you start not to trust your own mind. You think - 'I'm just panicking, this isn't as bad as it feels'. But slowly we realised - actually it was as bad as it felt."

They hadn't got a clue, these girls, who was approaching them. To them it's flash guys with money, it makes them feel good
Mother A

The police told Mother A not to tell her daughter. They said she wasn't in trouble, but they needed to make sure she didn't get into trouble.

Mother A soon realised that many of her daughter's friends and their boyfriends were involved in what was going on. She says most children in the area know what is going on too.

But like most parents - Mother A knew virtually nothing about child exploitation and trafficking. She assumed it was something that happened outside the UK not that children in this country were being used.

The relationship with her daughter began to get worse.

"Once I started to twig what was going on I'd follow her at night, just to make sure she was ok. On the one hand you know that teenagers have to have their own life and that parents have to not be involved, and there is a letting go.

"On the other hand when you hear stuff like this, you just want to be in the middle of it, you just want to protect them and you want them to be your little daughter again."

Gifts and treats

By this point her daughter had left school, walking out on her exams. She couldn't get into college and she started sleeping more during the day. Things got strained in the household.

"She was given three mobile phones, that we know of, each with different numbers. She was also given clothes, hair extensions, she was taken to have fake tans. She dyed her hair a different colour... her clothes sense changed.

"They were buying her all this stuff. We just said "where is the money coming from?" because she wasn't working. We were giving her a small allowance, but we knew that it wasn't enough for all this. She was just saying "they're my friends they buy me stuff. It's ok, they just want to treat me."

"That makes it difficult as well, because for her it's almost like she's got a hope - because she hasn't got the money, she hasn't got access to a job, she is struggling to find her way - and this is just making her feel good."

Mother A still doesn't know how far her daughter was pulled in by the grooming process, but says it was "pretty deep". Unlike many children who are groomed her daughter didn't disappear for a week at a time, but she did disappear for nights.

To this day she is still not 100% sure what was going on.

Then all of a sudden it stopped.

Mother A believes her daughter became aware of what she was getting into and stopped hanging around with the people grooming her.

"She's not daft. She's got a good head on her, and she's got a fierce head on her. One of the things she doesn't like is injustice, and she doesn't like being used - and I think that was her saving grace."

Sense of community

Mother A says her religion, and those close to her, have helped her her to deal with what happened.

"It makes me even fiercer that we need to have an active part in the world. It makes me believe stronger that as people we need to actually fight for our communities.

"We need to be actually standing there and going "this is what we want for our community. This is the reality of community - not that." So it's strengthened my idea of the world, because what I saw was people coming around and supporting us - and that making a massive difference."

But she also wants action to be taken to inform youngsters about the risks. Mother A has seen groups of girls leaving clubs in Shropshire, and being approached by the same gangs that groomed her daughter.

"They hadn't got a clue, these girls, who was approaching them. To them it's flash guys with money, it makes them feel good, it's what they've gone out for anyway. They haven't got a clue what actually they're being invited into.

"You want to just pick them up and pull them away. But, because there's not a general awareness, if you went up to them and said "do you know there's internal trafficking going on? do you know your part of it?" they'd just look at you as if you'd gone out.

"There has to be a way of dealing with it on the ground, and one (way) is getting these guys off the street, but another is raising awareness. The kids need to know what's going on, but the parents need to know what's going on.

"If parents find that their kids are involved they need to know who to access, they need to know it's done in confidence, they need to know that they're not getting their child into trouble. They just need to know they can call these people and they're going to get proper information."

Investigating child exploitation
10 May 10 |  TV & Radio
Signs of child sex exploitation
10 May 10 |  Shropshire


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