From the Daily Mail:
A woman who was trafficked into prostitution by another teenager at her care home when she was just 13 has revealed how everyone around her – from police to staff to teachers and social workers – shockingly turned a blind eye.
Zoe Patterson’s book Trafficked Girl is published today and details how she was sexually abused and raped by older Asian men while living at a Midlands care home, often being forced to have sex with multiple men on a nightly basis.
When she first admitted to a social worker what was happening, she was laughed at and the only real response from staff at the unit was to put her on contraceptives.
Now, Zoe says that society still finds it easier to blame vulnerable young girls rather than working to bring abusers to justice, as well as revealing her fears that young girls are still at risk in the care system despite high profile grooming scandals in Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford.
Speaking exclusively to Femail, Zoe, 30 who still lives in the Midlands said: ‘I do have concerns that abuse like the kind I suffered is still taking place.
‘The area where I was abused has reduced the size of its children’s homes and closed down the larger homes, but this won’t do anything towards changing the attitudes of some of the staff that run them and fail to protect the residents.
‘I do think that society finds it easier to blame the victims than to delve into the horror of what’s really going on in situations of abuse ‘If society can turn its back on one person or group, it could turn its back on you too. So people think it’s better not rock the boat and risk being thrown overboard.
‘It seems that it is easier to point fingers and blame the vulnerable than admit that actually we are all vulnerable and would stand a much better chance of eradicating abuses like these if we could only see each other as equal and connect with each other and care for each other.’
Zoe was placed in residential care home, which she has given the pseudonym Denver House, at the age of 13 after being removed from her violent, alcoholic parents. She was already drinking heavily and self-harming.
One evening, a girl called Abbie, 15, took her to a ‘party’ with three older Asian men, at least twice their age where she was raped by a man called Yasir and a second man.
She admitted to a social worker what had happened, but was laughed at and the only real response from staff at the unit was to put her on contraceptives.
Afraid of retribution from Abbie, she continued to attend ‘parties’, feeling as if she had no choice. ‘I cannot imagine what Abbie’s motives were when she sold me, apart from the obvious one of earning money,’ Zoe said.
How did social workers react to Zoe’s rape? By the time my social worker, Valerie, came to the unit later that day, I was so upset I’d decided to risk Abbie’s retribution and tell her what had really happened. I was crying and could feel my cheeks burning with humiliation as I described what the two men had done to me. But I felt a sense of relief too, knowing that whatever happened next was now the responsibility of an adult who would know what to do because it was her job to look after children like me.
‘I told Abbie I wouldn’t say anything,’ I said, suddenly afraid again of the ‘really serious consequences’ she’d threatened if I breathed a word to anyone. I’d been staring at my feet while I spoke, and when Valerie didn’t say anything for a few seconds, I looked up at her and saw, to my amazement, that she was smiling.
‘Well, Zoe,’ she said at last, ‘you’re never going to be satisfi ed now with what most girls your age would think was a normal relationship. No heavy petting for you from now on. You’re only going to be happy with full sex.’ Then she laughed. For a moment, I couldn’t make any sense of what she was saying. I remember thinking, ‘She can’t have listened to a word of what I’ve just told her. She wouldn’t have said something like that if she had.’
I think I was expecting her to say that what had happened to me was wrong, that I had been raped and she was going to have to report it to the police, because it’s a crime to rape someone, and a crime to have sex with a 13-year-old child under any circumstances.
It certainly never crossed my mind that she’d laugh and make a joke of it, even if I hadn’t been so obviously distressed. So hadn’t she been listening? Had she listened but misunderstood? Or was I over-reacting to something that wasn’t actually a big deal because it didn’t matter what happened to kids like me?
The next day, Valerie Hampton took me to a family planning clinic, where I was given a morning-after pill, a bag of condoms and a prescription for a contraceptive. Everything that happened as a direct result of my plea for help after having been raped seemed baffling and surreal.
Why was I given contraceptives, for example? I was 13 years old. I hadn’t wanted to have sex and I didn’t intend to have it again – ever. But the assumption seemed to be that from now on sexual activity would be part of my new life, like cleaning my teeth with a toothbrush.
That was just the way it was going to be. So the sole responsibility of the people whose care I had been placed in was to provide me with the means of not becoming pregnant.
Now the question that kept going through my head was, had Mum been right all along and I deserved everything bad that happened to me? The answer seemed to be ‘Yes’. ‘I don’t know if she acted out of fear or if she even considered any of the consequences of her actions.
At the time, she certainly didn’t give the impression that she was scared or that she had given any thought to what her actions would mean for me.
‘I will never forget the way she smirked and laughed when she walked in and witnessed me being raped that first time. As you might imagine, I have had to deal with a lot of anger concerning Abbie.
‘I believe that an action is its own reward or punishment. I came to this conclusion after many hours of soul searching, trying to make peace with what has happened to me and wondering about the word justice.
‘Abbie chose to sell me. That action in my opinion is her punishment, whether she knows it or not. Whether she cares or not, I believe that her actions, however misguided or ignorant, have damaged a part of her soul and that that is something that cannot be undone, just as I cannot take away the fact that I was raped…