Now we're stepping up the fight for hope at a time when it's under threat like never before. With your support, we can be there for young people trapped in a cycle of crime and abuse. Together we can help them break free and see their future is theirs to own.
When young people want to tell their story, we listen. These young people still believe in a better tomorrow. They know they can break free from those who hurt them, have a happy home life, feel better over time.
Often their stories aren't easy to tell, but they tell them. Because they know sharing their story will help them and others like them.
enjoying school and seeing friends, Lauren spent two years as a teenager
trapped in dirty houses with child abusers. She believed this was all life
could be for her. With our support, she managed to break free. She is safely
back with her family, going to college and focused on becoming a support worker
to help others.
2 years ago Lauren
was top of the Child Protection Register. Police feared she would be found dead
50 times Lauren
was reported missing, often being found in the house of known child abusers.
Lauren didn’t feel
safe at home. She didn’t want to be there. When a group of older men started
chatting to her online, she finally felt people cared about her. They listened,
made her feel special. If she needed a bed to sleep, they gave her a place to
stay. If she was hungry, they bought her food
started to change. Lauren’s new ‘friends’ started taking her further away from
home - to strange houses, with men she didn’t know, often for days on end. They
plied her with drugs, made her stay awake, forced her to have sex. She was
scared, confused - just a child on her own with no way to get home. She blamed
herself for not being able to stop them
know where to turn. She was afraid her mum wouldn’t understand and was
terrified of what the men would do if they found out. Traumatised and dosed up
on a cocktail of drugs from her abusers, Lauren stopped going to school. When the police
found Lauren in the house of a known child abuser, after being missing for five
days, they realised she needed urgent specialist support. That's when Lauren
met Emily, one of our child sexual exploitation workers
Emily and Lauren
met every week. Lauren was suffering from severe PTSD and still in extreme
danger of going back to her abusers. Lauren says 'If I hadn't gone and
taken that help, I would probably be dead or kidnapped.' Together they began to
build up Lauren’s self-esteem and she became able to recognise the signs of
abuse and manipulation.
help, Lauren also created a safety plan so she knew what to do in situations
where she felt anxious or in danger. She gave her a number to call any time of
day or night, no blame, no judgement. As her confidence and happiness began to
return, Lauren started to feel like herself again. Today, Lauren is
in college and has rebuilt her relationship with her family. She stopped
replying to her abusers’ messages and blocks people she doesn’t know on social
media. She knows how to stay safe online but at the same time, can 'talk
to people more and express how I feel.
Lauren is now
focused on becoming a carer or support worker so she can turn her experience
into something that can help other children. She says, 'I could be there,
the one to help them through it all, so they're not alone, so they feel safe
and know they can talk to someone about it'
Taylor loves to
sing and draw. Today, she is a confident young woman – but it wasn’t always
like this. Taylor lost those closest to her when she was young. Desperate for a
connection, she got into an abusive relationship and things started to spiral.
At her lowest point, she took an overdose. It was only when she met one of our
project workers that she started to believe her life could get better.
As a baby, Taylor lived with her grandparents. Her mum
struggled with mental health and her dad wasn't around. When Taylor was 11, her
mum was sent to a mental health unit permanently. Then her grandad died. She
was alone with her trauma, vulnerable to exploitation.
Desperate for love, she got into a relationship which
quickly turned toxic. Her boyfriend was manipulative, controlling, got her
addicted to cocaine. She started missing work, sleeping all day, going on drink
and drug binges to numb her pain. Her life was in turmoil, but she didn’t know
how to stop.
‘I was so desperate for anything, cause I was lonely
and I didn’t even feel like I had myself. I didn’t know who I was. I was just
broken. I was being told when to stand up, sit down, when to talk, when to shut
up by my boyfriend’. At her lowest point, Taylor took an overdose and
ended up in same mental health unit her mum was being treated in. ‘I was
just done. It was either make it or that’s it, so if this is life, I don’t want
it, you can have it, take it, I don’t want it.’
When Taylor left the unit, she desperately looked for
support, but no services would help her until she stopped using drugs.
Struggling to quit, she looked online and found The Children Society. ‘I
felt like I hadn’t been heard before that. And it was a relief. To finally be
honest with someone and have no judgement for it and have someone say this is
what you can do and this is how you can do it.’ The more Taylor spoke with Gemma the more she started
to understand the emotions and trauma that had cause her so much pain. She
realised that she now had someone who would listen to her and support
her. For the first time in years, Taylor started to believe that her life
could begin to get better.
Taylor’s 24 now. She has come a long way. She is
chatty and confident. You’d never know from talking to her how hard she’s had
to work to get to where she is today. She has come such a long way. But that’s
the difference that having someone who listens to you and believes in you can
make. Now Taylor knows the strength she has. She knows she has the power to
shape her own future. Taylor’s is fascinated by psychology and with
our support she’s setting her sights on university. She is so excited to see
what life holds for her. Taylor's future is bright. She wants to work in
prisons so she can support people who are struggling and need help. She knows that
answers can be found just by taking the time to hear what people have to say.
Alice had a
rough childhood. The abuse happened when she was six and again at
16. She still has flashbacks. But she’s moving on now. She’s signed
to a record label. She’s meeting people and doing what she loves.
Alice was six when she was sexually abused by her father. ‘I didn't have a clue
at the time what had happened; I just knew I was upset and something was wrong.’
She grew up
thinking abuse was a part of childhood. When she was drugged and abused at a
house party, she thought it was normal. ‘I thought I was on the planet just to
be used by men’. Alice became a very anxious 16 year old. Every time she
left the house, she would face her abusers. She started missing school and
stopped going out with mates.
As much as she wanted to, Alice couldn’t talk to her
mum about it. ‘I was a carer for her and she has bipolar, so it was very hard
to talk to her.’ Alice toughed it out alone, unsure what her future would look
like, until she met Suzanne. Suzanne is one of our practitioners who
specialises in child sexual abuse and exploitation. She was a stable presence
in Alice’s life, someone Alice could depend on. ogether they worked
through the signs and dangers of sexual exploitation. Alice began to make sense
of what had happened. She now knows if someone is trying to take advantage and
has the confidence to get out of dangerous situations. ‘I’ve been able to put
it all into action’.
Since meeting Suzanne, Alice has become more confident
and no longer self-harms. She still gets anxiety and painful flashbacks, but
she is determined to challenge them. Alice no longer sees herself as someone to
be abused. Today, Alice is a signed musician. She’s always loved singing
but now she’s doing it for real. She’s also the person people talk to
when they’ve got something going on. 'I can always take at least one positive
out of all the negative things’’. She likes it when people call on her.
‘It always makes me feel better, because I want to go into helping people.’
Alice still feels anxious and scared at times, but she
doesn’t let it drag her down. She is optimistic about her future and wants
to give something back. ‘If there’s one message that I could give to
other young people, who are having their own challenges, it would be there’s
always a way to get out of a bad situation. There is always a way, no matter
how deep you’re into something.’
Suhail arrived in
the UK aged just 14 years old. Like many young refugees and migrants, he had to
fight hard to start a new life. He struggled with mental health but has now
found his feet. He has a passion for photography and takes photos of his
time in London. When Suhail first arrived in the UK, it wasn't easy. 'You basically
start a new life, in a new country, new culture, with new things
around. It’s like you’re stuck in the middle of somewhere like clay or
quicksand. When you try to get out, it’s
Being alone, he
had to learn to get by the hard way. ‘It’s really extremely hard, because you
don’t know anything. Especially if you have to do everything on your own
without your family.' At first he felt desperately sad. He had no one to
turn to. 'I used to get really emotional, I felt like crying.'
introduced to us and we were able to work with him through his more difficult
times. We helped with his age dispute and supported him with his mental health.
'Many times I struggled to keep my life. I was going to end it. But it was The
Children’s Society and their help, giving me a plan and what I should do when I
felt like this...I can definitely say that is one of the reasons I am still
Suhail is feeling
more confident now 'and hoping that everything will one day sort out.' 'All
the different ways I have experienced difficulties, losing my family, coming
here, I learned from each of them. I got the wisdom and understanding from
these things.’ Hopefully I will get back to my family and find them, and
go to university. Being the person that I want to be.'