Treated and abused woman in care gets apology after 30 years | Social Protection

Carrie* is no stranger to legal challenges. In 2018, alongside other women, she won a landmark case against the Home Office when she challenged the requirement that prostitution offences, including those committed before the age of 18, must be disclosed as part of criminal record checks.

As Carrie, now 49, gave a detailed statement to her lawyer dealing with the case, she described her time spent in care. Her childhood was dominated by neglect, sexual abuse and exploitation. It became clear to her lawyers that there was a second case – against the responsible child protective services agency that had so badly abandoned her: Leeds Municipal Council.

This summer that second case was settled and Carrie, who spent years in children’s homes, received a ‘whole and unqualified’ apology from the council ‘for the abuse you have suffered and the impact it had on you.”

The letter, signed by Saleem Tariq, the Director of Children and Families, is considered by Carrie’s legal team and other child protection experts to be the first of its kind by a local authority as it is , for all intents and purposes, of a public admission of liability. and wrongdoing.

Carrie was forced into prostitution when she was 14 and has several convictions for soliciting, nine of which are from under the age of 18.

She was sexually abused by her father from the age of nine, and her mother had serious mental health issues and was unable to care for her. From 1985, Carrie was in and out of Shadwell House, a local authority children’s home. In 1987, when she was 13, Carrie was placed on a place of safety order and sent there for the long haul.

But unbeknownst to Carrie, Shadwell House was far from safe. The abuse started immediately. “The staff didn’t take care of me,” says Carrie. “I was sexually, physically, emotionally and mentally tortured there.”

Shortly after being placed in Shadwell, Carrie was raped by two boys who were also residents. A senior member of staff wrote that “[Carrie] said she did not want to press charges against the boy; the staff’s opinion is that she probably participated voluntarily in what happened. Months later, Carrie reported another rape. Again, nothing was done.

After school and on weekends, men would congregate in cars outside Shadwell House, bringing cigarettes and booze as bribes for the children. Carrie didn’t know they were pimps, but the staff knew the men with reputations.

A notorious pimp named Danny* spent three months treating Carrie, then 14, before trafficking her to London from his base in Leeds, where he sold her to a brothel. “He controlled me for at least three years,” says Carrie. “He took me to a flat in London, and I was told to do business with this man. When I refused, I was hit with a bicycle chain. I was terrified. I remember of walking the road in panties and bras after another beating. Meanwhile, Carrie was only returning home to run away again. She said: ‘I kept running from Shadwell because of the abuse.And then when I started to be groomed and exploited in the outside world, I ran back there, because I had nowhere to go.

On one occasion Melvin Blake, Shadwell’s assistant manager, hit her over the head with a drawer. “Blake used to have me sit on his lap in his office, touching places he shouldn’t be touching,” Carrie says. Staff member Leonard Lake called Carrie “promiscuous” and “slag” when she tried to report to him that she had been beaten by a group of boys.

In March 2017, Blake was sentenced of nine counts of indecent assault and four of rape, crimes that took place in the 1980s, and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Lake was convicted of two charges of indecent assault involving a boy and was jailed for two years.

In September 1988 staff at Shadwell House said in Carrie’s file that she had been bullied because other children had noticed that she was prostituting herself, but no member of staff is intervened. A few weeks later, Carrie was arrested in Bradford for soliciting. After her arrest, social workers and staff at the home did nothing and Carrie was treated as blame, handwritten notes from staff members obtained by Carrie’s lawyers show.

She was then detained at Westwood Barn Remand Center for Girls, a semi-secure children’s home also in Leeds. She was confined to the premises for a month but, once the restrictions were lifted, she ran away to be with Danny and found herself on the streets. “At that point, I was trapped,” says Carrie. “I convinced myself he was my boyfriend, I was crazy.”

Social services notes show that in 1989 Carrie began cutting her wrists and showing other signs of severe emotional trauma. Yet she was returned to Westwood Grange in 1990 and continued to be forced into prostitution by Danny.

Things got so bad that Carrie was brave enough to report Danny as an abusive pimp, but claims police said they couldn’t take any further action as they needed at least two more corroborating accounts other victims in order to initiate proceedings. .

In 1990, aged 15, she was coerced into participating in a pornographic film by men in Leeds. When Westwood Grange staff found out, they did nothing. Instead, Carrie described how staff acted like she was to blame.

By the time she left school later that year, Carrie was barely literate and had no qualifications. She returned to live with her mother in 1990 at the age of 16. But she was deeply rooted in prostitution in addition to being pregnant. Social services removed this child from Carrie, along with two other children. In 1991, his care order ended.

Social services records show staff knew Carrie was a pimp, but nothing was done to stop her. His behavior has also not been investigated. Her pimp Danny was known to Shadwell House. The only comment made about him was that he was too old to be her boyfriend.

Carrie believes children’s homes should have offered her therapy to deal with the abuse she had suffered both at home and in their care. More importantly, they should have believed her when she reported the abuse and did something to stop it.

Although the apology letter brings Carrie some comfort, nothing can take away the years of abuse she has endured: “Even though I have been out of prostitution for about 20 years, it still affects me every day. I can’t have a real relationship because I don’t trust anyone, not even my friends. The apology letter is significant because the council acknowledged her role in the abuse she and other children endured in their care. Carrie also received substantial compensation.

As Saleem Tariq wrote: “It was identified that different measures could have been taken to protect you, but that did not happen and I am very sorry that it did.”

A council spokesperson said: “The practice of social work in Leeds has changed dramatically in recent years and we are committed to listening to the voices of children, young people and families, so that we can learn from their lived experience and act accordingly to continually improve our services. “

“The council, together with its partner agencies, remains committed to continuously auditing, updating and improving policies to ensure the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Today, Carrie lives with her 21-year-old son, whom she describes as “my greatest achievement”, and struggles with physical health issues and trauma from her years of abuse. But despite this, she is determined to ensure that no other girl suffers such abuse while she is supposed to be in state custody.

“They continue to pay claims in secret and nothing changes,” says Carrie. “That’s why the public apology was so important to me. It means I can say to myself, and the world, ‘Look, that wasn’t my fault. It was theirs. ”

*Carrie and Danny are pseudonyms.

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