A mum of two from North Wales who was sexually abused aged five, raped at 13 and spent her teenage years as the ‘white whore’ of gang members has turned her life round thanks to a women’s support group.
Helen – not her real name – is now a self-possessed young woman in her 20s whose children take part in primary school Christmas concerts after being helped by a special Early Interventions programme funded by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
It’s a world away from the life she knew when she was brutalised, beaten, abused and traded for drugs and sex after a troubled childhood.
She was suffering from PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and the eating disorder bulimia and had been a regular drug-taker when the trauma of seeing her children facing the life she had led drove her to escape to North Wales.
There she was directed to the North Wales Women’s Centre where she joined the courses in Confidence Building and Managing Emotions which were paid for by the Commissioner’s funding.
Helen said: “When I started the confidence course I wouldn’t even look at people serving me in a shop but now we’re in a house, my kids go to school, I’ve done an Open University course and I’d like to work with people who are in the same position as I was.
“The Women’s Centre has turned my life round and my kids’ lives round and through them I’ve been able to access other services.
“Without them my kids would be in gangs in a few years’ time and my daughter would be like me. I knew I had to get help because of them – I wouldn’t have done it for myself.”
Police Commissioner Arfon Jones, a former police inspector himself, said: “This illustrates the importance of being able to intervene early in someone’s life.
“In this case not only has the help she has been given helped Helen break free of the desperate situation she was in but it has given her children a chance and broken the cycle of abuse and criminality they were caught up in.”
Helen said that she was sexually abused at five but her alcoholic mother did nothing about it and then she was raped at 13 when she became involved with a and began drinking and taking drugs.
She added: “I didn’t have a place at home but I had a place in the gang even though I hated what they were doing to me.
“If I had had a stable upbringing I would not have ended up like I did. We were the white whores and when I tried to get help at 14 they weren’t interested because they saw me as a gang member but I was only a child.
“I was traded for drugs and ended up with a gang member. When I was pregnant he wouldn’t let me eat because he didn’t want to have sex with a fat person. That’s all I was to him.
“Without the support I’ve had things wouldn’t have changed. I was a broken woman and my kids have both had specialist therapy for PTSD but the biggest stress for them was living with me.
“If you have issues as a mum you pass them on to your kids but I brought my kids here to have a better life and the Women’s Centre has helped me do that.”
A spokesperson for the North Wales Women’s Centre, which serves the whole of the region from its offices in Rhyl, said: “Lots of people live with terrible abuse. They don’t have warm clothes or proper food and they are ill a lot.
“A lot of the women I see on these courses are still those abused girls and they don’t feel they deserve anything better.
“But we can help them and they can always call here and someone will be here for them.
Arfon Jones, a former Police Inspector, added: “Crime is a symptom, the underlying causes of crime are what have to be looked at and addressed because some people are going before the courts day and day out and nothing is being done to stop it.
“That’s what the Early Intervention Fund is about because if we can act early in the lives of these children at risk then we can prevent this pattern of behaviour and that’s what the work of the North Wales Women’s Centre is all about.”