Sexual Exploitation of Boys and Young Men

James wasn’t always a troubled teen…

He and his two sisters enjoyed a relaxed, happy childhood. His Mum and Dad have good jobs – Claire is an accountant, Andrew works for the local council – but family always comes first and work’s just a means to an end. Spending time together is what it’s all about and their house was always of teasing and laughter. But then things changed…

In 2010, 10-year old James attended a sports play scheme over the 6-week holidays. Like most working parents, Claire and Andrew struggled with summer childcare, so the scheme was a godsend. It was popular and well-established and John, the man who ran it, was experienced and seemed to really like working with children.

John was a predator hiding in plain view – and James didn’t stand a chance.

John was a clever, devious man. He waited, and bided his time. Earned his place in James’s affections, and his trust, until James felt comfortable telling him anything. John understood him, gave him special one-to-one coaching away from the rest of the group. He was ‘cool’ and different, not like all the other grown ups.

James was right. John was different. He was a predatory paedophile, and the individual coaching sessions soon became an opportunity for him to abuse James in the worst imaginable ways. Every week day for the next 4 weeks, James was repeatedly raped, and forced to perform vile sex acts on John.

John took photographs of the abuse and threatened to send the images to James’s friends if James ever told them what was happening. He told James that there was no point in telling a grown-up because they wouldn’t believe him – and anyway, this is what big men do to show they love each other.

Don’t you want to be a big man, James?

James did want to be a big man. And he didn’t want to make John angry. So he didn’t tell anyone. And he did more than keep it quiet – he completely withdrew into himself. Almost overnight, Claire and Andrew’s sunny, chatty, lively boy became sullen and tearful.

His parents tried to get to the bottom of James’s unhappiness, but he insisted nothing was wrong. He’d already tried to tell another play scheme leader what was happening, but the leader dismissed James as a troublemaker.

Research shows that a sexually abused child must tell approximately seven adults before they are believed, but few ever make it to the seventh. And James didn’t even have seven adults to tell.2

John was right.

Grown-ups wouldn’t believe him, they just didn’t listen.

So James kept it all in, and his parents assumed it was the start of the tricky teenage years.

Summer ended. The new school year started. James’s abuse was over.

But the nightmare was only just beginning.

Fast forward to 2014. James’s 14 now – and spiralling out of control. His classmates are scared of him. There’s something not quite right about him – no-one wants to be friends with Psycho. And if they’re honest, his teachers are a bit scared of James too. He’s so quiet. And so angry.

James’s parents are bewildered. He destroys his possessions, and seems hell-bent on destroying himself too. He cuts lines on his forearms with a compass, drinks alcohol, smokes cannabis and takes no care over his personal hygiene.

They can see that underneath it all he’s a lost and scared little boy – which is why they haven’t kicked him out, but they have no idea how to get through to him, no idea why he is so ANGRY all the time, so they love him the best they can and hope he grows out of it.

Their home is no longer a happy place.

And then a new maths teacher joins James’s school. She’s warned that he’s hard work. But she’s attended an NWG funded conference for educators, and asks herself why he behaves in the way he does.

She recognises the signs – self-inflicted social isolation, self-harming behaviour, low self-esteem, aggression. She gets James to talk to her. And after years of holding this dirty, shameful secret in, years of hating himself, it is a relief to blurt it all out.

James tells her about John. The depraved things he was forced to do, things that make him feel so dirty, and worthless.

And his teacher cries, and tells him she believes him, and promises him that his parents will too. With James’s permission, she talks to social services and the police. Together, they help James talk to his parents. And thanks to James’s evidence and that of other boys that come forward, John is arrested, and locked away for a long, long time.

Telling his story to someone trained to recognise the truth was the turning point for James. Many young men aren’t as lucky. Too many stories like James’s end in depression, addiction, violence or suicide.

Without the help, advise and support of NWG Network James’s teacher simply wouldn’t have spotted the signs. With their support she was confident enough to talk with the police and social services about James’s vile experiences. She continues to support James today as he learns to cope with living with the trauma of his experiences.

If you can, make a donation today and you can fund our work to train and advise organisations that support children like James, so more people are equipped to spot the signs and help sexually abused children learn to cope with the horrors of CSE.

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