My new group of older male friends seemed fun at first. But I had no idea what lay ahead…
By Alex Morrey, 20, from Stockport
We waited patiently in my mate Terri’s bedroom.
‘Who are these guys?’ I asked.
‘Just friends,’ Terri replied, turning up the music. She didn’t seem to like answering questions about the men we were about to meet.
When they pulled up outside her house, we ran outside.
The car window rolled down to reveal a dark, handsome stranger behind the wheel.
‘Hi,’ he said, flashing a broad smile. ‘My name is Sham.’
‘I’m Alex,’ I gushed, jumping in the backseat.
‘This is my brother Giash,’ he added, gesturing to a man with similar features, sitting in the passenger seat. ‘Would you like a drink?’
I couldn’t believe it when he passed us a bottle of Jack Daniels. At just 14, I’d never been drunk before and I struggled to keep down my first gulp.
As we drove by girls in their school uniforms hanging outside the local chip shop, I couldn’t help but notice how young they looked.
‘I’ve just finished with my girlfriend,’ Sham said, suggestively.
He sounded arrogant but at 23, Sham was nearly a decade older than me and seemed smooth talking and sophisticated.
As Terri and I passed the bottle back and forward, our giggles grew louder and my head lighter. By the time we’d pulled up outside a strange apartment, I was seeing double.
‘Sham likes you,’ Terri whispered into my ear as I clambered out of the car. ‘He wants to sleep with you.’
With my guard down, Sham led me into a bedroom and I let him climb on top of me.
I could barely register what was happening, I was so drunk.
The room was spinning and I kept my eyes closed the whole time. I just wanted it over with. When Sham finished he simply got up and left me there alone. But I was relieved. I could finally fall asleep.
I was still drunk when Terri woke me up the next day and Giash took us home.
‘Where have you been?’ Screamed my mum when I finally staggered in the next day.
‘I thought you were dead in a ditch,’ she said. ‘I even called the police.’
I felt terrible. I could barely focus. My head was throbbing and I felt bad about sleeping with Sham. It just didn’t feel right.
‘I was with friends,’ I snapped. ‘I’m not a child.’
But of course I was.
I showered and headed straight out to meet Terri and the men again, even though it was a school day.
Soon, we were seeing Sham and his friends every night. They would pick me up whenever I wanted and take me wherever I wished. I initially felt safe around the group and trusted them.
So when they offered us cocaine a few weeks later it seemed impossible to refuse.
Although I knew it was wrong, there was something dangerous and exciting about class A drugs. I had no idea I was being groomed.
I was soon hooked and began ringing the men more and more for a fix. Sham was always buying me bottles of champagne or drugs and I never had to put my hand in my pocket for anything. Sham seemed like he was responsible for me – like a boyfriend.
But the drugs and late nights were taking their toll on my life at home and my relationship with Mum was at breaking point.
‘You treat this place like a hotel,’ she would tell me again and again.
She started locking the back door so I could no longer sneak in but within a month she’d started locking the front door too. I wasn’t welcome anymore.
Fine. I didn’t need her. I had my new family to take care of me.
Then one night, a couple of months after I’d first been introduced to Sham, a group of us were listening to music when the men asked us to striptease.
Terri started to take of her clothes, but I refused.
‘Come on Virgin Mary,’ Sham said. ‘You’re no fun.’
Unable to cope with the teasing, I joined in. But it was a trap – and once we were naked Sham forced me into a bedroom and raped me with a pillow over my face.
The next day, I broke down. But disorientated and by now dependent on drugs I went back.
‘You’re my favourite,’ Sham told me that night. ‘You are the special one.’
He introduced me to more of his friends, including Robert Jackson, and we began spending more time together.
At first I was only made to sleep with Sham but within days I was being passed around the group. Drunk and high on drugs, it seemed impossible to resist the pressure.
Sham and his gang became all I had. I was isolated, vulnerable and completely at his mercy.
After that, we were driven to hotels in London and made to have sex with scores of older men. They left us there without money or food for days, before the manager would kick us out.
Then one night we were taken to a studio apartment in Manchester.
‘You won’t be needing that,’ snapped Sham, snatching my mobile out of my hand.
I’d been plied with alcohol and I was high on ecstasy, but I still flinched when one of the men stripped me and forced me to have sex with him.
I tried to close my eyes and escape to somewhere safe but when I opened them I was terrified to see men in Scream masks filming me. Every time I thought my ordeal was over, another man would rape me.
When I finally sobered up, I stumbled to the front door but it wouldn’t open.
‘Let me out!’ I begged. But my pleas fell on deaf ears. I was locked up in there for days.
It turned out to be the first of many similar ordeals. The only thing that made it slightly bearable was that my friend Terri was going through it with me.
By the time I had turned 15, I’d lost all self respect. I didn’t feel special anymore and I longed for a normal life.
‘What are you up to after school?’ asked a classmate one day. ‘We’re going to the cinema if you fancy it.’
My smile turned into a frown. ‘I’d love to but I can’t… ‘ I hesitated. ‘I’m busy.’
I wanted nothing more than to escape the circle of abuse. My school friends were enjoying shopping trips or films at the cinema, while I was taking class A drugs and being forced to have sex with strings of older men.
‘We’re not doing it tonight,’ I told Sham and his gang one evening, after they had picked Terri and I up. I tried to hide the nerves in my voice as we stood our ground.
They giggled at first but when they drove us to a cliff face out of town, I soon realised it was no laughing matter.
Abandoned in the middle of nowhere without any money, we began the long trek back into town. It took us eight hours to reach home.
We’d been taught a lesson – do what they say or we’d be punished. It wasn’t worth it to complain.
I was living with my nan by this time and the men would wait in a nearby car park all night for me. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.
They would say Terri was there and I would climb out of my bedroom window but find out too late that I was all alone and they had been lying
At 16, I hit rock bottom. I was sick of being drugged up all the time. I couldn’t cope and stopped going out.
I was older now so the group’s interest had waned and it became easier to keep my head down. I’d escaped but it wasn’t the end. I’d lost all sense of self and spiralled into a deep depression.
Then when I was 18 there was a knock at the door. It was the police. Another of the child sex gang’s victims had come forward – and they wanted me to give evidence too.
Now is my time.
I had a chance to bring my abusers to justice and put the past behind me.
They pleaded not guilty, forcing a trial, but thankfully the jury saw through their evil lies.
In December 2013 Shamin Uddin was jailed for 19 years for two counts of rape, two counts of attempted rape and one count of sexual activity with a child.
He was described in court as the sex gang’s ringleader… I’d once believed he was my boyfriend.
His brother, Giash Uddin, 27, who was already serving an eight-year sentence for drugs and guns offences, was sentenced to six years for sexual activity with one of the girls and Robert Jackson, 24, was sentenced to 12 years for rape, possession of cannabis with intent to supply and possession of cocaine.
They’re child abusers and I was a victim. But I refuse to be a victim forever.
Those men may have stolen my childhood but I won’t let them rob me of my future. I’m a survivor.