Sex, drink and drugs: A teenager's life in care

Urgent reforms of the residential care system in England to protect children from sexual abuse have been announced by the government following an in-depth report into child exploitation.

Julie, not her real name, was placed in care at the age of 11, where she remained until she was 18, staying in a combination of foster homes and children's homes. Now 19, she has spoken to Newsnight about her experiences of sexual exploitation.

I started running away because I didn't want to go home. If it was in the children's home I didn't want to go back because of the staff or the kids, or I just wanted to stay out. If it was in foster care I just didn't want to be in the home because it wasn't my home.

One night, when I was 14, me and my friend were out. She was talking to this lad - they were friends, but I didn't like him.

I wanted to go home because it was late, but she was pulling my arm saying, "Stay out, stay out. I'm not staying out if you don't stay out" and stuff like that. And then because he wanted her to stay out, I got pulled along too.

He sneaked us into his house and they made me sleep or whatever on the wooden floor while they were doing things. If I moved he'd hit me and then start swearing, because he'd sneaked us in and you could hear his mum downstairs. I wanted to go down and tell his mum, but I couldn't.


He did stuff to me, like have sex and stuff, and was hitting me and swearing at me.

Then in the morning he sneaked us back out of the house so his mum didn't know I'd been up there on the floor and didn't want to be there.

I got a phone call off someone from social services and asked them to pick me up, and they came straight away. When we got back I told the police and they gave him a caution or something saying that he wasn't allowed to come near me.

When I look back now all my friend ever did was get me in trouble with different things.

When you're younger and you're in care, you go out and if people offer you alcohol and stuff you just go along with it really. You're probably just gullible.

One time she took me to this guy's house and we ended up drinking alcohol and she had some cannabis and we ended up doing that.

She was probably the only person that would stop out all night with me, so that's why I went out with her probably.

Really drunk

There were times where we slept in this little builder's box thing on a field. It was just a plastic roof and it didn't have a floor. And we slept in a tent on a primary school field one time. Just wherever, really.

We knew one guy in a houseshare of three people. He was around a year older than me and he was fine, I didn't have a problem with him.

And there was another boy - well, he wasn't a boy, he was about 19 at the time - and he was the guy that me and my friend got alcohol and stuff off.

One time he was hanging out of his window and started saying, "Come up here, come up here, I'll give you a beer and stuff." So anyway, me being stupid, I went and then he did stuff to me.

Afterwards he started screaming, "Get out, get out of my flat," so I left. By this time I was really drunk, like couldn't walk drunk.

As I came out of the flat into the corridor there were two men. I later found out they were 25. I think they were a bit drunk as well and it was really late, so I couldn't go home or if I went out the door then the police would be there.

I went back into the flat with them, into the shared living room and I fell on the settee and couldn't get up. The first guy was still screaming, "Get her out, get her out," but this other one said, "No, she's going to stay with me for the night."

He took me in his bedroom and then he did stuff as well. He was 25 and I was 14. So yeah, that was another bad time.

They probably just see a young girl and think she's not with her mum and dad, because they don't care and she's in care, so of course she's going to come and stay at mine. They pour a bit of alcohol in you and then you're legless.

And you can't do anything and then they'll just get what they want then.

Watch Newsnight's report on the sexual exploitation of children and what is being done to combat it on Tuesday 3 July 2012 at 22:30 BST on BBC Two, then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer and Newsnight website.

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