'I was groomed by the father figure I trusted while studying for my GCSE's'

A woman has spoken of how she was groomed and sexually abused by the "father figure" she trusted as a new service is launched across West Yorkshire to support victims of crime.

Thursday, 20th February 2020, 10:15 am
Updated Thursday, 20th February 2020, 11:24 am
A woman has spoken of how she was groomed and sexually abused by the "father figure" she trusted as a new service is launched across West Yorkshire to support victims of crime.

The woman, who was just 15 at the time, was targeted by the man who gained her trust and "made her feel he was the only one who understood her" and the difficulties she faced.

She has bravely spoken of her ordeal as a new scheme - Supporting People Harmed by Crime - is launched across West Yorkshire, which aims to raise awareness of what help and services are available to victims of crime, even if they don't report their ordeals to police.

The woman, who is now 18, said: "I felt like none of my friends understood me, and he was the only person I could speak to," she said.

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"I thought he was a friendly old man who had been there for me.

"My mum and dad didn't let me smoke and drink and he did. He made me feel like he was the only person in my life I could talk to."

The woman told The Yorkshire Post how she grew up in a "perfectly normal household" where her parents brought her up "perfectly".

"I didn't know what grooming was," she said.

"I didn't know the signs of it and how it started."

Signs of child sexual exploitation can include a change in a young person's behaviour or them coming into possession of unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that cannot be accounted for.

A child may also become more secretive when using their mobile phone or going online.

Eventually in return for the gifts he bought her, the girl's attacker soon wanted sexual activities in return.

It took a long process of social workers and police officers spending time with the woman to help her understand that what she had actually experience was not a nice old man being kind, but a sinister case of Child Sexual Exploitation and that she was a victim.

“I learnt about grooming in school, but this happened when I was doing my GCSE’s, so I think if schools opened up more about it and taught more about it that would be a good thing,” the woman said.

Through West Yorkshire Police, the woman was referred an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor from Victim Support who helped her come to terms with what had happened.

She said: “I don’t want to hold onto the pain and hurt.

“The support from Victim Support and West Yorkshire Police was really good and I got to trust the officer and they let me open up in my own time.

“I had someone to speak to about stuff with Victim Support who were different to the police. And they are still there if I need to talk to them,.

Victim Support supported the teenager on her journey through the courts process by taking her to visit court, talk through what would happen, and being there for her talk through any concerns that she had.

The woman's perpetrator went on to be jailed for more than a decade for his offences against her and another victim.

The Supporting People Harmed by Crime strategy was officially launched this week by West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns Williamson and the national Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC.

The strategy has been developed with the full involvement of other partners including West Yorkshire Police, other criminal justice partners, West Yorkshire councils and the NHS.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “One of my most important roles as PCC has been to champion the interests of all victims and witnesses, and this strategy goes some way to addressing that.

“In working with victims we have learned how critical it is to get the initial response from the police and others right first time every time. That ethos has played a pivotal role in helping to inform and develop this strategy.

“I feel that it is important to note that this isn’t just another a document, this is a signal of intent and I would take this opportunity to make a direct plea to any victims out there that need help to get in touch, you will be heard, you will be listened to and you will be supported.

"I would also urge anyone with an interest in victims and witnesses to consider what more we can do collectively to support them and to get in touch with my office if you think you can help."