We helped skylar to build hope after she was sexually abused.

Over the last year, Barnardo’s Scotland has worked with other agencies to disrupt offenders of child sexual abuse, and support young people who have been sexually abused by adults from serious organised crime groups.

Skylar (15) was with her friend Ella when she first met Ella’s boyfriend. He drove them back to a flat where they met a group of his friends (age 18-39). Soon the men were meeting Skylar and Ella most nights, picking them up to drive around, taking them back to a flat, and providing them with cannabis and alcohol. The men visited Skylar’s parents to introduce themselves, leading them to believe they didn’t pose any threat to the girls. The girls believed they were in consensual relationships with the men.

However, over time, the men began to control the girls. In addition to forcing Skylar into sexual acts, she was forced to carry Class A drugs to assist the men’s drug dealing operations.

At around this time, police identified that members of a serious and organised crime group were associating with young people in the area. Skylar was identified as potentially being linked to the group. Police, social work, and Barnardo’s approached Skylar to encourage her to share some accounts of her abuse to help them understand how and where the abusers were operating, and identify other young people who may be also affected.

The girls were fearful about sharing information. Over time, information was gathered by Barnardo’s, police, social care and other agencies, and seven girls were identified as likely victims, and at least eight men suggested to be involved in their abuse. Two adults were charged with a number of offences, including human trafficking and sexual offences including rape.

Skylar worked for a time with Barnardo’s and her social worker. In addition to putting in place safety plans for Skylar, Barnardo’s helped Skylar to understand that what had happened to her was abuse and exploitation, and supported her to consider the impact the abuse has had on her. Skylar is beginning to feel less shame and guilt about her abuse, and continues to work on understanding that she was not to blame for what happened to her, as she builds hopes for her future.