Leslie's story Leslie discovered her 2 daughters - Kathryn and Abigail - had been groomed online

girl in hooded top looking at mobile phone"I first found out that something was wrong when I found a text message from my eldest daughter Abigail*, who was 17, to her younger sister Kathryn*, who was 12.

"I regularly checked both girls' phones to keep an eye on who they were talking to and the text message didn't seem right. I questioned Kathryn and she told me that Abigail was talking to an older man. I could tell from her body language that something wasn't right and she was afraid to tell me what was going on.

"I managed to get it out of them that Abigail had met a 42 year old called Pete* online and had been speaking to him over Facebook. He encouraged Abigail to buy a new sim card so he could speak to her on the phone without anyone knowing.

"He told her that he had a 17 year old friend who would like to speak to her"
Leslie*

"When he called her, he could hear people in the background and asked who they were. When Abigail said it was her younger sisters he encouraged her to buy Kathryn a new sim card too. He told her that he had a 17 year old friend called Marcus* who would like to speak to her.

"Marcus started speaking to both of the girls and the conversation soon turned very sexual. He knew that Kathryn was only 12 but he was asking her what size her bra was and what type of underwear she liked to wear. He said that he wanted to have sex with both of them at the same time. When Abigail reminded him that Kathryn was only 12 he said: "I know she's only 12 but I'm not going to hurt her. I won't do anything she doesn't want to do. It can start with just a bit of a play around."

"He'd arranged to meet the girls and take them off with him"
Leslie

"When I heard about it all I was horrified. I'd found the message and questioned the girls on the Friday and he'd arranged to meet the girls on the Monday and take them off with him. I reported it to the police. They found out that it was still the 42 man speaking to both of the girls pretending to be 17. So it would have been him that had gone to meet the girls and tried to take them with him.

"I was terrified that as well as knowing what school they went to, he might know where the girls lived and come to the house. Imoved us away from the area to live with relatives as I didn't know if he'd keep trying to pursue the girls.

"It all happened so quickly, he'd only been talking to them for a few weeks. I used to keep a close eye on the girls but they were both hiding it from me as this man had groomed them both. He'd promised to buy them the world and told them not to tell anyone they were talking to him.

"She was devastated but she felt like people didn't believe her"
Leslie

"He admitted the offences against Abigail but not Kathryn, who had been so upset by everything that she destroyed the sim card.

"She was devastated as she'd been through this too but felt like people didn't believe her. It killed her self-esteem and she started self-harming. It was heart-breaking to see her like that.

"We got help from the NSPCC's Letting the Future In programme which helps victims of sexual offences. Kathryn got a lot out of it and really opened up to her NSPCC workers about what happened. Even now when I ask Kathryn about it a shield goes up and she doesn't want to talk about it to me as I'm her mum so I'm glad she was able to talk to the NSPCC.

"It really scares me how close he came to meeting them but the girls are trying to move on so I need to be strong for both of them.

"I think the law should definitely change so that adults are committing an offence from the first time they send a sexual message to a child. It shouldn't be allowed to go on and be able to develop into a situation where the young person is at danger; they should be protected right away."

 


*DISCLAiMER

Names have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.

Helping children like Abigail and Kathryn

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Grooming

Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional. 
Read more about grooming