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‘Real life Bethany’ tells own story of grooming in wake of Corrie sexual exploitation plot

Release Date: 26 Apr 2017

As Coronation Street’s sexual exploitation storyline peaks this week, real life grooming victim *Nicole – who has been helped by Barnardo’s - tells her own story.

The ITV soap’s disturbing plot - which has been described as uncomfortable viewing by many - sees teenager Bethany Platt groomed and sexually exploited by much older Nathan Curtis, who pressures her into having sex with another man this week.

And as Nathan’s sexual exploitation of his young victim reaches the next level, ‘real life Bethany’ *Nicole reveals her story, which has chilling similarities to the Corrie plot.

We’d go to parties, there’d be music and drink and some people would be doing drugs.

The alcohol was given to us by the men at the party. There’d always be alcohol around; we’d never have to ask for it. Usually it was older men; none of them were in school any more. They were all a lot older than us

At the start of the nights I’d be really uncomfortable, a bit nervous because of all the men who were there, but after we’d had a few drinks most people would be up dancing and having a laugh and your nerves would be out the window.

In the wake of Coronation Street tackling the important issue, the UK’s leading children’s charity is highlighting the seven stages of grooming so children and young people – and their parents, carers and teachers – know how master manipulators like Corrie’s Nathan operate.

•Target - A groomer looks for a vulnerable child – but all children are potential victims.

•Trust - A groomer gains trust by making a child feel understood and valued.

•Information - A groomer gathers information about the child, their needs and how to fulfil them.

•Need - A groomer fills the void in a child’s life by making them feel loved and special. They may give them drink, drugs, somewhere to stay or thoughtful gifts.

•Isolation - A groomer isolates their victim by encouraging them to sever contact with family and friends and assumes a protective position.

•Sexualisation - After forming an emotional attachment and gaining trust, a groomer sexualises the relationship by talking about sex, watching porn or having sexual contact.

•Control - Once sexual abuse has begun a groomer uses secrecy, blame and threats to force the child into silence. They may threaten to harm a child’s family and friends or to circulate indecent images.

Older men started grooming *Nicole when she was just 12 which led to her staying out drinking and not coming home.

There’s one particular event I remember clearly in my head, as if it was yesterday, she continues. “We’d been taken somewhere – I don’t know where it was. We’d been driving for a while and we got taken to this house.

*Nicole and a friend found themselves alone in the home of an older man they didn’t know – they had been left there by their groomers.

My friend texted them to ask them where they were and they said that the other guy was going to give us a lift home,” she remembers.

But he said that he wasn’t going to give us a lift until we’d performed some sort of sexual activity on him. We were locked in, we couldn’t get out. He wouldn’t let us out the house.

It was really scary because he was telling us that if we didn’t do what he said then we weren’t allowed to go home. I had no control over what was happening and I felt really scared.

Nicole and her friend were eventually let out of the house after she made a panicked phone call to her mum.

We were walking for a while before we finally came to a neighbourhood that we recognised,” she says. “It was very unnerving.

At the time my mum didn’t really know what was going on. She didn’t know the full story. She just presumed I was being a typical naughty teenage girl, just going through that stage, but she didn’t know enough information to be able to help me.

One Coronation Street scene this Friday will see terrified 16-year-old Bethany being led to the bedroom by older man Neil as her manipulative ‘boyfriend’ Nathan encourages her with a reassuring smile.

Millions have been watching Nathan’s sinister exploitation of schoolgirl Bethany as Corrie’s disturbing storyline unfolds and earlier this week Barnardo’s issued advice to teenagers to help keep them safe from sexual exploitation.

Corrie star Christopher Harper, who plays Nathan in the ITV soap, said:

Nathan is a master manipulator.

Bethany thinks he loves her but he is isolating her from her friends and family so he can control her and exploit her sexually.

Groomers like Nathan can target anyone but there are things you can do to help keep you and your mates safe.

Barnardo’s has lots of top tips, including staying with friends your own age, always making sure someone you trust knows where you are and having charge and credit on your phone.

It’s important to ask yourself if you’re in a safe situation and to be careful around drugs and alcohol, as they could make you an easier target for someone who wants to hurt you.

*Nicole has stressed the importance of young people having someone they can trust and confide in. She says:

You have to gain that trust so a young person can open up to you to be able to tell you what’s going on otherwise they’d just keep it to themselves.

They need to be able to trust you enough to tell you and let somebody know what’s happening to them. It’s important that a young person feels like they’re not to blame, that they haven’t caused what’s happened to them.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan added:

Sexual abuse and exploitation is never your fault, so please tell someone if you are scared or worried about yourself or a friend, so you can get help.

With the help of Barnardo’s, *Nicole has been able to put her horrific experience behind her and focus on her future.

My life has changed dramatically in the last two years,” she explains.” I’ve gone from a horrible place where I never want to return to a really good life. I’m going to university, I’ve got new friends – I’ve got real  friends for once - and I’ve got more people around me who are helping me and supporting me.

I’m just really happy to be able to say that I made it out the other side and my life’s going to be a lot better for it.

Barnardo’s has previously praised Coronation Street’s writers for tackling the issue of child sexual exploitation and issued advice for parents worried about their children in its Be Safe Guide.

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