I was asked a question yesterday. “Do you think that all young people involved with gangs are victims?”. The answer left my mouth before the question was finished.
Now, let’s get some perspective on this. If your child was harmed due to gang violence you would struggle to ever see the perpetrator as a victim in that situation.
But, in most cases. I do view young people involved in gangs as victims. Some people are born into gang culture. Not they are born with a bandana. No, they are born into situations where becoming involved with gangs highly outweighs other outcomes for them. Some young people are raised in an area where gang culture is the norm to them. This can make them more open to being exploited.
Some children and young people become involved in gangs due to poverty and hardship. They see gang culture as a way of surviving. A form of protection. A sub culture that they feel they are excepted into. This can make it an easier process to be exploited.
Some young people are drawn into gangs because they are drawn to risk taking behaviours. Many young people involved with gangs have undiagnosed learning difficulties or mental health concerns that makes them more vulnerable to being exploited.
I refuse to believe that any young person starts life out wanting to be in a gang. I would go as far to say that no child or young person chooses to become involved with gangs. Of course, they may believe that they are in control and making choices. “Life style choices” as some professionals refer to the exploitation of children and young people. And there we have it, the exploitation of children and young people.
Exploitation can take place in many different forms and can be conducted in many ways. There are times that people involved with gangs can become the perpetrator AND the victim at the same time.
Do you know what exploiters do? The make you bend your own moral compass. I promise you this, I have seen someone on a Monday, very new to the whole “Gang” life, stating that they would never shot (sell) Heroine. “Na Bruv, never me, selling brown is the lowest of the low, you will never see me do that”. That same person, 7 days later…. 7 DAYS… was out on road selling it. Within 7 days the exploiters of that group managed to break him down, find his weakness, find what makes him tick and then got him to go against something that he felt so strongly about.
Was my own moral core ever bended. Often. It would be bent and reshaped without me even knowing. Then, in bed, when it was just me and God (was a strong believer back then) I would silently cry and ask God to forgive me for what I had done. Or seen. I’m not sure he ever answered, hence my lack of fait now. Or maybe he did but it was not the answer I wanted.
The problem is, all that bending and twisting, it has an impact. If you get bent up two much, then…snap…sometimes people break. Sometimes the exploiters within gangs will perform acts involving you or others around you that can make you do things that you never thought you would.
Am I making excuses for people involved with gangs that create victims? Never.
Do I have the clarity to see that people can be perpetrator and victim at the same time? Yes.
What we must remember is this, child abuse is a very destructive. Modern day slavery and human trafficking destroys people.
Children and young people in gangs, where exploitation takes place (Which is almost always) are the victims of abuse and neglect. They are or can be the victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking. Their morals may have been twisted and bended to a point of destruction. They may not have the capacity to have a moral compass with strength in the first place.
They may be a 12 year old girl so scared of what is happening around her, what people say could happen to her mum, a 12 year old girl who has watched people around her be so badly hurt and damage by other gang members that she is literally shaking in her boots, I mean her legs are literally shaking like jelly and she worries that those around her can see and what they will do if they can see. Imagin being a 12 year old, standing in a trap house whilst othe propel, older people , are discussing what will be happening to you that day and you have your head down, hands shoved deep in your pockets, heart banging in your chest because just now you heard the words “Getting mashed on red brick” which means someone is being sent to an estate nicknamed red brick estate and they will be expected to have sex with people and even though your elder keeps saying it wont be you…you know he might. You are praying that you are sent to sell drugs. Imagine that if you will, where ever you are right now…tucked up in bed, on the train to work, chillin in the sun…. imagine that right now a child’s best outcome for the day is that they get chosen to see drugs rather than have sex with strangers. Let that sink in.
And if that 12-year-old went on to create victims along the way, whilst trying to survive daily herself, does she not become a perpetrator and a victim? I will let you decide that for yourself.
Maybe …if we look deep into it…the true perpetrators are the those who exploit others unable to stop it…and professional’s and people in power who can stop the perpetrators but don’t. But I think that is a discussion for a different blog…