When I was asked to be part in a BBC documentary, initially I was unsure. I have said many times there are some things I won’t speak about and things that I know people would never want to hear. Sheldon Thomas of Gangs line and who had been part of the BBC documentary “Lost Boys” vouched for the producer Amanda Kirton and said that she had treated him with great respect and worked hard to get his story across.
And that’s how I found myself 2 days later a train two days later heading to the one part of London I said that I would never go back too…Elephant and Castle.
I had spoken to the producer and her team the days leading up to the interview and we had discussed what would be happening on the day and what we would talk about, yet I was sitting on the train heading towards London from Kent still very unsure how I felt about it all.
By the time I arrived at the location and met with everyone and got myself settled, it was almost a shock as I sat on the old leather sofa with several cameras pointing at me and I started to tell my story.
We all have a story in us. Our life journey comes with many twists and turns and if we were all going to sit and write about our life story, and each year a chapter, I wonder what we would include…or would not want to be included. If a story was going to be written about your life, what would people need to know to get the true essence of you are.
Would they need to know about your childhood? Would they need to know about key achievements? Would they need to know how others perceived you?
When you think about your story….your life…maybe it would be relatively simple to gather the main characters and the big storylines that mean the most to you.
It’s not like that for me. I would be unsure where to start or what to include. I would be unsure who the main characters were and the role they played. There is a constant blur of how I perceived certain people and what the truth actually was. I’m sure it’s like that for a lot of people.
There are things I will never tell. Things that will never be spoken out loud. Things that if I said them out loud could cause me much internal sorrow. Things that can’t be said.
But, as my journey goes on, it gets easier for me to say some things. It’s like I am able to unlock a little more as I go along.
I had not decided what I would or would not say as I sat on the couch for my Hidden Girls’ interview. I, as always, have my hard boundaries of the unspeakable……but I also felt it was OK to speak of one of my Ghosts that hunts me most nights and the cause of many of my sleepless nights,
My role as a perpetrator.
“Perpetrator”. My good friend Jhiselle Knapp challenged me on this. She said that I have to stop referring to myself like this. Because I was a child and in survival mode. She is right.
As I sat on the couch speaking to Amanda about some of the darkest things in my past, I started to speak about Nadine and the role she had in my exploitation.
I have written about Nadine before which you can read here. Nadine was a big part of my exploitation, A few years older than me, she saw something in me that made her want to show me how to survive in a subculture that no child should be exposed to….child sexual exploitation. If I am honest….I think she saw fear in my wide eyes as a 12-year-old child when I was first exposed to the brutality of child sexual exploitation. I am sure she saw lots of scared girls, including herself when she looked in the mirror. But I wonder if she, for whatever reason, caught a glimpse of my fear. Or maybe she just needed to exploit me in that way at that time for her own needs. We will never know.
She taught me that if you didn’t want to have sex with the boys…well…then you just make sure there are other girls there that will.
As a society, we are only just getting to understand contextual safeguarding. We only know understating what peer on peer abuse looks like. Only in recent years has there been a deep dive into understanding what exploitation actually looks like.
When I was 13, none of the above was discussed. None of the above was recognised.
But it was still happening, it has been happening for hundreds of years. Children have been sexually exploited for a hundred lifetimes. But it is only in the past…20 years….the moves have been made to try and understand it.
In 1993 when I was 13, there was no education about what was happening to me. What was going on around me. There was no PSHE lessons in school about consent or what that even looked like. No one was speaking of exploitation or gang culture. Nothing. No one.
And yet it was happening to us. We were out here, existing in a subculture that was destroying every fragment of our innocence and childhood and there was NOTHING being done about it.
I still get so angry that we were just left to navigate through a social field that destroyed many of us from the inside out. That led to so many becoming addicted to whatever they could lay their hands on…finding themselves in abusive relationships as they got older…teen pregnancy….prison time…suicidal thoughts and desires…and for some…death.
This is not some fantasy for others to weep over and vow to do better for future generations and then do absolutely nothing.
The Hidden Girl’s documentary is not some kind of entertainment for you to watch curled up on your sofa with a cuppa, have a sob as you watch, and then turn off and go back to business as normal.
I didn’t sit on a couch and talk about the daily threat of my mother being raped for you not to do anything about the exploitation of women and girls!!!
The documentary is not for entertainment purposes. It’s for information sharing, it’s to create change. It’s about survivors having a voice.
I know that for me and Aliyah Morgan, making the documentary has been a roller coaster of emotions and we both found elements of the whole process both healing and empowering. We also had to brace ourselves for negativity and people making comments that have not got the first idea of what life was like for us.
I know that the producer, Amanda, knew what her message needed to be when creating this documentary and that she achieved that. Amanda has given us a voice, not just me and Aliyah….a voice to survivors of exploitation.
I know that the professionals that spoke on the documentary, Tirion Harvard and Rita Jae, both understand the impact of exploitation and what that looks like, their voices and thoughts that are weaved through this documentary, will land with people differently each time they watch it. The way they both speak about exploitation makes me emotional because it’s almost like I want to jump up and say yes….thank you…thank you for understanding and thank you for speaking out.
I know that Brandon, who tried so hard to get the essence of who we all are, found elements of the documentary making hard. That he had to listen to graphic accounts of child sexual exploitation over and over again as he edited and captured what he felt needed to be included, something he achieved tenfold.
Hidden Girls is not for entertainment purposes. It’s a statement. It’s a learning tool. It’s a resource. It’s to get people talking, to make a change, to give hope.
I was hidden for so long by so many people. I was hidden because professionals were ashamed of what happened to me. What they allowed to happen to me. I was hidden within my own society because no one really cared. Because there were so many of us going through similar stuff that it become the norm.
I hid from myself for many years. Too scared to look at myself. So, I become a hidden girl by my own thoughts and feelings. Hidden away….because I felt to dirty to even start to think about what happened.
So, let’s use this documentary to make a change and make sure that no girl is hidden again. That no girl feels too ashamed to speak out about her own abuse and exploitation. That no girl is hidden away to cover up others’ mistakes.
Hidden Girls was not created for entertainment purposes.