Leila's story

Leila was 13 when she ran away from home and was sexually exploited by older men. We supported her at a time in her life when she had no one to turn to.

 There were times when I had nowhere to go

"I was born in Palestine and moved to England with my mum when I was 8. My mum is a strict Muslim and when I was 13 we started arguing a lot because she didn't want me to go out with my friends.

She thought that England was really dangerous and she was worried that I'd get into drink and drugs. I felt like I was stuck between two cultures. Soon after, I began running away from home. 

Sometimes I would stay with strangers and have sex with them. It would be a roof over my head for the night and some food in my belly. I was scared but not scared enough to stop doing it. At the time it was better than having to go home.

"The men were a lot older than me but they didn't blink an eye when I said I was 13."

"As the arguments with my mum got worse, I started running away for longer, sometimes for up to a month. I'd stay with friends, or boyfriends, or with a stranger. But there were times when I had nowhere to go. I wandered the streets in the middle of the night and I was scared."

NSPCC were a friendly face at a time when  I didn't have many people turn to

"I was referred to the NSPCC Protect and Respect service when I was 13 by a school mentor as she was worried about my safety. I went along to their group sessions which teach young people what sexual exploitation is and how it is harmful. 

I saw that I was being sexually groomed and that men were taking advantage of me. I thought that I was an adult and I was acting like an adult but I wasn’t one.

Girl in street turned to face camera

It was nice speaking to other girls who were going through the same thing as me and knew how it felt. I hadn't told any of my friends about what I was doing so they couldn't understand what I was experiencing.

"I had one-to-one sessions with Rachel* from the NSPCC. I loved being able to talk to her about what was happening to me and I never felt judged or looked down on. I knew that I could always turn to her and tell her anything. She saved my life."

I loved the normality of the NSPCC. They were professional but they provided a friendly face at a time in my life where I didn’t have many people to turn to. I would recommend the NSPCC to anyone who is going through what I went through."

Our Protect and Respect service

Protect and Respect works with children and young people who need support to learn about healthy relationships or who may be experiencing exploitation. One type of support is awareness-raising group work.

We work with a wide range of organisations such as schools or youth clubs. We encourage children to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings about topics such as consent, internet safety, healthy relationships and self-esteem. Extra support is available during and after the sessions for any young people who need it.

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Child sexual exploitation


Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.

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