We Need to Protect Our Teenagers from Exploitation

We Need to Protect Our Teenagers from ExploitationTo say that I grew up chaotically would be an understatement, dysfunctional is a better way of describing my childhood.

I was abused by my babysitter when I was 8 years old. We moved house lots, which meant always being the ‘new girl’ at school, which made me vulnerable to bullies. My step-father’s on/off presence created much confusion. As did the lies, such as being told that he was my biological father only to later discover that he wasn’t. The list could go on.

A tough start in life

When I was 15 I attempted suicide. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t want to actually kill myself, but I desperately needed someone, anyone, to listen to my cry for help. A week or so later, as I was getting ready to go back to school, I had an argument with my step-father and he punched me in the face. It was something new, for as mean as he could be with his words, he never usually hit me. With the blood still drying on my white shirt I remember thinking that he’d handed me an opportunity to get the hell out of dodge. I gave my mother an ultimatum no parent wants to hear from their teenage child.

“Drive me to London and still have a daughter, or I’ll go anyway.”

It’s ironic really that I haven’t spoken to her for longer than a decade, but that’s a whole other story. On that day, she dutifully drove me to her sister’s tiny two bed flat, which was where my adulthood started. Sleeping on the floor between my three cousins’ cot and bunk beds. Not being legally able to work, I did cash in hand jobs, where men three times my age would get me drunk and try to have sex with me in grimy pub toilets.

The next ten years that followed were lived with my finger firmly attached to the self-destruct button. I drank too much, partied too hard, and bumped uglies with people that I am ashamed to admit to. I suffered countless bouts of depression, and had two full on mental breakdowns. I was taken advantage of many times and in many ways, and that was WITH a roof over my head. What would have happened to me had I not had floors to sleep on?

What happens to the thousands of children who don’t have any options, and fall through the cracks?

As the law currently stands, police are unable to step in and protect older teenagers from sexual exploitation in the same way that they can protect children under 16. By making a few amendments to the Bill, the Government can change this. On 13 April The Children’s Society are holding an event in Parliament where child sexual exploitation project workers and young people from their Seriously Awkward team can speak directly to MPs about why 16 and 17 year olds are at particular risk of exploitation.

Please help The Children’s Society by asking your local MP to attend this crucial event. Simply complete this form, which should take less than 30 seconds, so that your MP can speak to the experts. The Children’s Society want 16 and 17 year olds who are being sexually exploited to be protected from harm, get the help they need, and the justice they deserve. Please ask your MP to stand up for these vulnerable children.

For more information about the Seriously Awkward campaign, please visit The Children’s Society

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