I was just 13. I was a teenage girl. You know what girls can be like at that age, all hormonal and bitchy. It wasn’t long before I started feeling ostracised by my so called friends.
Although they never physically bullied or harmed me, they were forever subjecting me to nasty catcalls and personal remarks.
My parents just put it down to ‘kids being kids’. I felt left out and sad so I turned to online chat rooms.
Chatting online was fun, I met lots of people, all of them accepting me for me.
I met this one girl, Sian. She was in her twenties. She was cool and understanding, not like the other girls at school.
I could talk to her about how I was feeling and she understood, apparently it had happened to her too.
Sian told me not to worry about those jealous girls because there were plenty of people who would think I was beautiful. I was craving acceptance and her words made me feel truly special. Little did I know that to Sian, I was just a business acquisition.
After a few weeks of chatting, Sian asked if I’d like to go to a party and meet her friends. She even treated me to a new dress.
I met lots of people at the party, well lots of men. They were all smiling at me and giving me compliments.
Sian encouraged me to drink and it wasn’t long before I was totally out of it. The men started performing sexual acts on me. I wasn’t able to stop them so I had no choice but to wait until it was over.
Sian reassured me they were only doing it because I was beautiful and if I continued I would receive more dresses and other nice things.
I spent more time with Sian and less time at home and school. I knew deep down that what was happening was wrong, but I didn’t want Sian to think I was ungrateful or a bad friend so I continued to meet the men and be sexually abused.
My parents had noticed a change in me. Said I’d become distant and withdrawn. They were right to think that. I’d been drawn deeper and deeper into a web of sexual exploitation by promises of love, friendship, gifts and blackmail.
When mum noticed a bruise on my arm she assumed it was down to the bullies at school but I lied and told her it happened in hockey practice.
It wasn’t until the school called home to ask why I hadn’t been attending that they really started to question what was happening to me. Finding contraceptive pills in my PE bag when they knew I didn’t have a boyfriend was the last straw and I was taken into school to discuss my absence.
I broke down in front of the school counsellor and relived the harrowing experiences I’d encountered.
Police were informed immediately, but Sian was never caught. It turned out her identity was fraudulent and she’d used an internet café with no CCTV so she couldn’t be traced.
Looking back I can see that things weren’t normal. I should’ve stopped making excuses for them. I deserved better. I know that now.