Child sexual exploitation: ‘I was conditioned to obey and powerless to refuse’

In the first of two articles about her experiences of CSE, Jenny Molloy describes how she entered a 'living hell' populated by predatory adults

Teenage girl crying

By Jenny Molloy

Max is on the phone Jen, please speak to him, we can get loads of drink and trips. Somehow our abusers had found a way of bypassing the switchboard and getting straight through to the unit’s kids phone.

I don’t want to Rita, I’m scared, they hurt us last time. Even as I’m speaking the words, I’m walking to the phone. I don’t want to. I really don’t want to, but I do. Meet us in the woods. Okay.

Simple as that. Conditioned to obey. Powerless to refuse. Why? Men were there to use and abuse girls, and who was I to refuse.

Predatory men and women

Six months earlier you would never have found me in this situation. A large number of girls had been moved without notice once the staff worked out what happened to the girls when they got off the train at Waterloo East station every Friday. I was lucky. I didn’t go home at weekends, so wasn’t at risk. All girls in care got pimped out, didn’t they? We expected it, playing a game of cat and mouse with predatory men and women waiting in the shadows to pounce.

I had managed 18 months without absconding, had stopped self medicating my anger and fear, and had begun to love life. Often, I would worry that this happiness couldn’t last, that my staff would be snatched away from me, and tried my hardest to do everything I was told to, to the best of my ability. I began to dream of a future filled with me fighting against the world within the law courts, fighting for the underdog, trying to right some of the wrongs my parents had encountered in life.

This changed overnight – I was told I was moving unit, new staff, new bedroom, new rules. I tried to fight the move but it was pointless, and moved I was. Two months later I was in the grips of drinking to oblivion and swallowing whichever pills I could get hold of.

Police hostility

The Metropolitan Police found me often, in squats, flats or dumped in a street, dirty and disorientated. There was a marked change in their attitude from my last period of absconding. Then I was 13, and was often met with kindness and concern. At 15 I was met with hostility and a lack of any concern for my safety.

There’s a memory that comes to my mind often – I wish it wouldn’t, but flood in it does – of being dragged out of a squat. I had agreed to go back there with a group of street drinkers, all male. I sat squirming with excruciating embarrassment as they put on a pornographic film.

I quickly swallowed the pills down with the cider. What were they? I had no idea or care. All I needed to know was that they would get me off my head. I remember this deep heartburn, like my whole chest was on fire, and being pulled off the sofa. I knew it was Saturday when I got there as I did a runner on the way to my Saturday job.

I came to, soaking wet with what I think was my urine, being dragged out of the flat. I later found out that somehow someone in the community discovered I was in the flat, and after dragging me out, called an ambulance. I had socks on, and thankfully a blanket had been put around me. It was Monday.

I had no idea what had happened to me during the previous 48 hours.

I had a black eye, numerous bruises and no clothes. From the hospital I was taken by the police to their station and waited to be collected. That was the end of that. My heart rate increases rapidly and I feel sick, even to this day, when this memory comes into my head.

‘Me against the world’

Back to the men in the woods, the drink and drugs kept on coming, every time I ran away to meet with them. I knew they would want something in return, but I didn’t care. I hated myself and my life. I belonged nowhere. Who was I going to tell?

I hadn’t seen my social worker in seven months. My staff were gone. It was me against the world. Until, that is, one night where I was found naked, in a high rise block, in a locked room, with men, hiding from another man who was trying to get into the room with an axe.

The police had been called and took me away. I had tried to cover both my top and bottom half of my body at the same time and failed miserably. They let me get dressed. Back to the station I went. I never considered that my body and spirit was precious and belonged to me. I longed to be rescued from this living hell.

Back at at the kids home, I was made to see the nurse. Did I want the morning after pill? Did I need to go to the clinic? I felt such hatred for every aspect of my life that I prayed for death. I took an overdose, thinking of a better land than this, only to be caught before my heart stopped beating.

Two weeks later, I was kicked out of the kids home. Another home bites the dust.

Jenny’s second article will be published in two weeks, and will address how her experiences of CSE have affected her adult life.

Jenny Molloy is a patron of BASW England and the author of Hackney Child, Tainted Love and Neglected.

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2 Responses to Child sexual exploitation: ‘I was conditioned to obey and powerless to refuse’

  1. Jane Benanti May 4, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    How very moving and courageous this article is. I would like to hear more of young people’s direct experiences. Many improvements need to be made but also more funding is needed from government for teenagers in care. They should not be moved around like inanimate objects without attachments and without emotions. Some of these teenagers can be saved from predators with the right intervention at the time. These young people are difficult and angry but we should not do the bare minimum and use use ‘the system’ as an excuse for the young people’s distress. However, funding needs to be considerably more and ringfenced for this service. It will pay off in the future when the next generation are not living in the same social chaos as their parents. As a society, we have failed these children.

    • Yemisi Omonijo May 12, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

      The whole world is instintively failing our innocent children. I heard about several direct stories and simililar pattern of CSE behaviour which occured to especially children that had previously lived in care and now experiencing mental illness, due to their horrific experiences. Government need to invest funds into social work sector in order to implement grounded strategic plan to stop this erractic behaviour. All professionals need to work in collaboration to stamp out this devilish behaviour and protect the children. School need to start teaching children to value and respect their souls and spirit from early year. We all need to empower children to speak to people who can help them promptly to stop secrecy. The world need to remove labelling a child problematic and explore further into the emerging issues with a child.