'I thought abuse at home happened to everyone'

7th March 1997 at 00:00
"Until I was eight years old my world was normal. When the abuse started happening at home I thought it was a general, normal thing that happened to everyone. The man who did it was part of my family. At 13 I finally realised what had been happening to me and that it was wrong. I told my mum. She didn't believe me.

"My school teacher noticed that there were bruises on me. I told her what had been going on, and she said I should tell someone else, so I did."

Louise's family provided alibis and her story could not be proved to social workers or the police.

Her mother threw her out but then wanted her back, and police would take her home although they knew about her statement and that she was scared. She tried to get put in care, but failed, and started to steal to survive.

"I started working in a massage parlour at 14. I started working there as a prostitute. They didn't exactly advertise that there were young girls there, but there were others about my age.

"On a bad day you'd make Pounds 100, on a good day Pounds 2,000."

After a while Louise began working the streets, although she did not start using drugs. "I saw girls getting hit and one was murdered. Well, she disappeared as they say. She was 16.

"Apart from a drop-in centre for working women, I never came across any professional agencies when I was out working on the street. I wanted some help. I just wanted a home and I wanted to go back to school and get my life back to normal again."

Eventually Louise was put in touch with the Children's Society and one of their refuges where young people can stay for short periods.

Social services still believed her religious family was the best place for her, but a Children's Society worker believed her story. "It had never happened to me before, the way he listened to me."

While using the refuge, Louise stopped working the streets but started again to get extra money when she went to college at the age of 17.

"When I was working as a prostitute I felt that what I was doing was wrong.

"If there had been a choice there, if there had been someone there to have the power to do something, not just to wave a magic wand but to give me a little bit of security now and then and somewhere safe to stay, things would have been different."

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