Quick Exit

Experiences Shared

Saffron

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Saffron never met the man who groomed and sexually abused her when she was a young teenager – it was an online encounter.

The experience caused her extreme distress and anxiety, and distorted her perception of relationships.

Saffron explains that most of her friends would ‘meet random people’ in online chat rooms, often by video links. One night when she was bored and couldn’t sleep, she went online and met a man called Helix, who told her he was 26 years old. She told him her age, which was 13. 

She says that at first they had a ‘normal friendly chat’, then Helix encouraged her to add him on a messaging service he used. Here, she says, ‘I told him quite a lot of stuff … I was going through a lot of mental health issues’. Helix seemed concerned and understanding and advised her to seek help from her GP. 

He began to ask Saffron about boyfriends. When she said she didn’t have one he said he was shocked, as she was so pretty. He made comments like ‘So you’ve never kissed anyone?... I’d love to kiss you … You’re mature for your age’. 

Saffron says this was the first time she had experienced male attention and she thought she must be ‘dead cool’ that an ‘older guy’ had shown such an interest in her.

Helix began to send her pictures of his genitals, and encouraged her to send him pictures of her breasts and of her touching her genitals.

Saffron says that she felt ‘nervous and weird’ after sending the photos but she did not understand why. 

Helix said that he travelled extensively for work and he suggested meeting Saffron in hotels when he was in her area. He said that he would pay for the rooms and buy her underwear and other gifts. She was 14 at this stage. 

She says that she felt flattered and ‘special’ that an older man continued to be interested in her. She did agree to meet Helix, but he did not contact her at the agreed time. She wonders if this was because he knew it was wrong, or was afraid of being caught with an underage girl. But at the time, she says, she worried ‘What have I done wrong?’

 

When she was 15, Saffron began seeing her first boyfriend. Helix told her he was jealous and did not make contact with her until she ended the relationship. 

He continued to contact her intermittently until she was 18. By this time he had told her that he was actually 36, but she was still not sure of his true age. She doesn’t know why Helix stopped contacting her but thinks it may have been because she had a boyfriend, or because she was no longer a child.

But whatever the reason, when Helix stopped contacting Saffron, she says she went through a phase of trying to get attention from boys because ‘it made me feel better’. She says she would send pictures to ‘so many people’ and afterwards, would feel ‘really disgusting …  I would sit there and cry and feel really lonely … empty I guess’.

Saffron understands that the online grooming and sexual abuse ‘messed up her perception of relationships. She says ‘When I did like someone ... I’d be flirty and send pictures then he would get scared and he wouldn’t respect me’. She adds ‘I met a guy and if we did anything together, I’d just cry afterwards’.

She has experienced suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression and she continues to struggle with relationships and her need for attention. She has spoken to a counsellor but is finding it difficult to access services now she is an adult. 

Saffron believes that people need to be protected from online abuse but this has to be balanced with not invading their privacy. 

 

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