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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Adrienne’s parents were both addicted to heroin and she and her older siblings were given no boundaries and left to their own devices.

She describes how the absence of any positive attention in her life made her vulnerable to years of exploitation, violence and sexual abuse, organised by men for their amusement and gratification.

Adrienne’s experiences have given her clear insight into how neglected children and young people can so easily fall prey to abusers: ‘In a life of chaos it’s like being a ghost – you are the last thing anyone thinks of and then they [the abusers] make you feel like someone sees you.’

She explains that when she was 11 years old, a close relative was murdered. Her life was already extremely troubled and this tragedy sent her off the rails; she started drinking and the habit quickly spiralled out of control.

As a young teenager she met Arslan. She says she saw him like an older brother whom she could trust. Arslan regularly took her to parties and bought her alcohol and drugs. Adrienne remembers how ‘cool’ it felt to have an older person who took an interest in her. She adds that they ‘had a laugh and everything was free’.

But after one party when she was drunk, a friend of Arslan’s carried her into the bathroom and ‘did what he did’. Adrienne remembers screaming for her friend – she says she was not interested in boys and did not want to be in that situation.

Afterwards Arslan told her he was really sorry and he would make sure his friend stayed away. Adrienne says she was distraught following this incident, but she didn’t want to lose her friendship with Arslan because it seemed he was the only person interested in her and her life.

Some time later, Arslan introduced Adrienne to another of his friends, Kaif. Kaif would pick Adrienne up and buy her alcohol and drugs, and again, she relates how this attention made her feel ‘important’.

She remembers waking up after a night out with the men. She had no clothes on and was in pain. Arslan was laughing. Kaif told her he had put ketamine in her drink ‘for a laugh’, and then she found out that Arslan had raped her. She had no memory of this.

From this point, Adrienne says, the abuse escalated further. Cousins of Arslan and Kaif joined in and she began to get phone calls from other men who said that Kaif had given them her number. Adrienne was taken to major cities across the country by Kaif, to ‘parties’ where there were more and more men. She recounts that she often had to have sex with up to 10 men each night.

Adrienne tried to tell Kaif that she didn’t want to go to the parties but he would ‘get nasty’, threatening that he had lots of videos of her that he would show to other people. She describes feeling naive, trapped and stuck, adding that her drug and alcohol use was also spiralling at this point. She was 15 years old.

One day Kaif told her she had to marry a man who needed a visa. In a desperate attempt to stop this, Adrienne says she shaved off her hair and ‘bashed my face in’, so the man would not want to go through with the wedding. She describes how angry Kaif was with her and how he took his revenge. At a ‘party’ at his flat that night Adrienne was anally raped by several men. She still struggles with pain from this assault.

She remembers Kaif warned her: ‘You will never go against me; you have no power’. The abuse continued until Adrienne was sentenced to youth custody, following an incident at a 'party'. She describes the sentence as ‘the best six months’ and says she felt ‘life had never been so peaceful’. She built relationships with people in authority for the first time, came off drugs and has not touched them since.

But Kaif was waiting for her when she was released. She says that having been under his control for so many years she became ‘childlike’ in his presence. She was wearing an electronic tag but this did not stop Kaif taking her to ‘parties’. He simply made sure he dropped her back before her curfew.

Adrienne describes how easily she fell back under his control. However, she adds that without drugs and alcohol she found the abuse much harder to deal with and attempted to kill herself. She recalls: ‘I didn’t feel lucky I survived’.

The turning point came when Adrienne found the courage to tell Kaif that she had told her probation officer about him. After abusing her for 10 years, he panicked and left the country.  

Adrienne now identifies many opportunities where professionals could have intervened and helped her and stopped the abuse. She did not attend school, she was addicted to alcohol and she overdosed on drugs. Social services were involved and she saw a counsellor and a psychiatrist, but was described as ‘an attention seeker’.  

She also recalls an occasion where she and another girl had been taken to a hotel to be abused by men. She says she would ‘shut down’ during the rapes as a means of coping, but the other girl ran out of the hotel shouting that the men were trying to rape her. The police attended, spoke to the men involved and decided they were ‘just having fun’.

Adrienne remembers thinking at the time ‘this was my only chance’ and feeling that no one would ever believe them.

She says her life is stable now; she feels ‘in a good place’ and is still free of drugs and alcohol. But she adds: ‘People ignore things ‘cos it’s just too much hassle –  it’s sad, things could have been put in place and my life could have changed’.

She urges people not to make assumptions and to act to prevent abuse: ‘I was “crazy” because I was traumatised, [they] assumed it was mental health … if you suspect, it’s better to be wrong than to be sorry. If you have a query you should speak up. It could change someone’s life’.


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