to be continued in next post...The truth about the schoolgirl sex slaves
Lots of teenage girls want an older boyfriend to spoil them and make them feel special. But growing numbers are finding themselves forced into the sex trade when their boyfriend becomes their pimp. Fabulous investigates...
Young schoolgirls are preyed on by older men looking for sex slaves
Abigail* is 17. She loves One Direction, shops in Topshop and hates maths. There isn't a mould for the average teenage girl, but if there was, it would be Abigail-shaped.
But Abigail isn't your average teenager. Because for four years, she's been forced to sleep with men. She's lost count of the number of sexual partners she's had. And the man who forced her to become a sex slave? He was her boyfriend.
Abigail's story is not unique. She's one of a rising number of teens who've fallen victim to a "loverboy" - a term used to describe a young male pimp who targets a vulnerable girl, adopts the role of her boyfriend, before grooming her and forcing her into sex slavery. According to Barnardo's, it's on the rise in the UK, with children as young as 10 "brainwashed" then sexually exploited.
"We dealt with 1,098 children who'd been groomed and manipulated into prostitution last year," says Duncan Stanway, Assistant Director of Children's Services for the charity. "Of course, it's likely that the majority of victims are still too scared to come forward."
Abigail met her "loverboy" Jack* in a park with friends when she was 13. "A group of older boys - they looked about 20 - came and chatted to us," she says. "Jack asked me about school and my family. He said I was really pretty. No boy had ever told me that before, and he was older, which made it a big deal.
"At 8pm, I had to go home, but Jack asked for my phone number and texted me all night, eventually asking if we could meet up again the next evening."
Abigail began seeing Jack almost every night, lying to her mum, a nurse who'd split from Abigail's dad, that she was at friends' houses.
"We didn't kiss for the first few weeks," Abigail recalls. "I'd never had a boyfriend before, so didn't want to rush things.
"He bought me jewellery and topped up my phone so I could text him. He said he should always know what I was doing. I thought he just cared about me."
'When I screamed, he hit me'
Six weeks after they met, Jack asked Abigail to sleep with him. "When I refused, he said I was acting like a child," says Abigail. "I was terrified he'd break up with me, so I agreed. I shut my eyes and hoped it would be over quickly.
"As soon as it was over, Jack said we had to see a friend of his. Once there, he threatened to dump me if I didn't sleep with his friend. I thought he was joking, so I laughed. But they weren't laughing.
"Jack smiled as the other man pushed me towards the bedroom. The door slammed shut and the man raped me. It hurt, but when I screamed, he hit me. Eventually, I stopped feeling anything.
"Afterwards, Jack told me I'd made him proud. I didn't know what to think and I hurt, but was glad he was happy with me. Later that night, watching TV with my mum, my mind raced. I thought what happened was my fault and she'd be disappointed in me. So I kept it secret.
"The next day, Jack collected me from school, drove me to another guy's house and it all happened again."
For the next three-and-a-half years, Abigail slept with Jack's "friends" on an almost daily basis. "Sometimes it was after school, when Mum thought I was at a friend's, some days I skipped classes."
Abigail doesn't know if Jack ever took money from his so-called friends for abusing her. All the while, her home life deteriorated.
"My relationship with my mum got worse. I resented her for not protecting me, even though she didn't have a clue what was going on. I think she thought I was just going through a phase."
As unhappy as she was, Abigail was too scared to leave Jack.
"He told me the other men would kill me for being a ****, that he was the only one who could protect me. I was so scared, I believed him. I'd grown apart from all my friends, so had no one to share how I was feeling with.
"When I was 16, I started running away from home because I couldn't deal with my mum's questions. By now, she'd forced it out of me that I had a boyfriend, but she didn't know anything about him.
"I told her I was an adult now and she couldn't make me live at home, so started spending more and more time at Jack's, sometimes staying there for weeks at a time and not going to school. She kept telling me on the phone I could come home and we'd sort things out, but it felt like it had gone too far.
"I thought I loved Jack, but even if I'd wanted to leave, I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to."
It's hard to believe a young girl from a good family could find herself trapped like this, but Duncan Stanway says the assumption that girls at risk are from dysfunctional homes or are teen runaways couldn't be further from the truth.
"We all know that predators prey on the weak, but people forget that doesn't necessarily just mean girls from unstable backgrounds," he says. "I defy you to find me a teenager who isn't secretly insecure, naive and incredibly vulnerable."
Psychologist Emma Citron, who specialises in teen development, agrees.
"The teenage years are emotionally and socially volatile, so young girls - regardless of their background - may feel low in self-esteem and confidence. This can make them ideal 'prey' for these men.
"As soon as a loverboy has got a girl in his grasp, he starts stripping away the confidence he's built up. Compliments are replaced with threats or taunts that no one else would want her. And due to their vulnerability, the girls believe him.
"Sadly, they also remain convinced that it's still a loving relationship as their 'boyfriend' shows moments of tenderness in between forcing them to have sex with other men. This is just another ploy to keep the girl working for him."
Politicians have also warned about a "growing national problem" of teenagers being lured into the sex trade.
"In every town and city, there are unscrupulous men who have a very sophisticated methodology of grooming children," says Labour MP Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Children, Schools And Families Committee.
He's likened the techniques used to those of US cult leaders, and believes children are more vulnerable because of mobile phones and the internet.
Last year, 20-year-old Emma Jackson* released the book The End Of My World, in which she revealed how she was groomed by a man called Tarik, and forced into prostitution aged 13.
"I never thought of myself as a prostitute because in my child's view of the world, prostitutes walked the streets, wore short skirts and heels, but I didn't," says Emma, who lives in hiding from her abusers after the case against Tarik collapsed due to lack of evidence.
"It's only now I can see that, much as I wanted to believe Tarik had feelings for me, he didn't have any at all, except to make money out of me."
While loverboys are a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, they are a well-established threat in the Netherlands, affecting over 5,000 girls every year.
Anita De Wit, 47, has spent the last seven years campaigning to raise awareness of the issue, after her daughter, Angelique, now 23, was forced to become a sex slave at the age of 15.
'I couldn't believe it was happening to thousands of other girls'
"Angelique had been skipping school and staying out late, but I thought she was just going through a rebellious phase. It was only when she ran away from home and the police became involved that we discovered she was being pimped out by an older boy," says Anita, from Maasland, in the Netherlands. "I couldn't believe it when I discovered it was happening to thousands of other girls."
Angelique met her loverboy Maarten* in 2003 at a cafe near her school.
"I was 15 and he was in his 20s. I couldn't believe he was interested in me."
Maarten showered Angelique with gifts, and she lost her virginity to him. He then pressured her into having sex with his friends in car parks and grotty flats. After she ran away from home, he forced her to work in an Amsterdam brothel.
"I didn't want him to leave me, so I'd do whatever he asked," says Angelique.
Angelique was forced into prostitution at the age of 15 Anita set up the Stop Loverboys charity in 2005, desperate to bring her runaway daughter home. After years of phone calls and appearances on Dutch TV, in January this year, Angelique finally found the courage to leave her loverboy.