Mother tells how her 13-year-old son was groomed on-line and sexually abused without her ever suspecting anything was wrong
** Names in this story have been changed to protect identities**
Your child being abused is every parents worst nightmare, but for one couple, it was happening right under their nose in their own home.
Ben was just 13 when he became the victim of online grooming and ultimately sexual abuse by four adult men.
His parents, increasingly concerned about his reclusive behaviour, only discovered what was happening when they overheard a late night phone call between Ben and his abusers.
What followed is a harrowing tale of not only unwinding the psychological control the groomers had over their son, but a struggle to get support and to see the abusers convicted.
They have decided to share their story….
‘We became aware that there was a problem with our son he was very unhappy towards the end of 2010,’ Ben’s mother explains.
‘He’d come out as being gay on Facebook in the summer of 2010 and the months following that he was very very unhappy, very unsettled.
We put it down to the fact that he was struggling with his sexuality. We knew that something had changed dramatically in our son and the school wasn’t picking up on it.
‘We his parents didn’t see it, the doctor didn’t see it.
‘He’d completely stopped talking to us, there was no communication going on at all but i was listening and watching all the time.’
Powerless to do anything, they were forced to simply stand by as the son they knew disappeared before their eyes.
It was not until January 2011 that the true horror of what was happening to Ben was exposed.
‘We were in bed one night and I could hear him talking in his room.
‘I got up and could clearly hear him saying “I will get the train”, and I could hear a man’s voice on his phone.
‘And i knew then, i knew immediately that he was being groomed.’
Shocked, and unsure of what to do, they decided to call the police, who initially said they were unable to help, forcing them to involve the school, who in turn called in Social Services.
Ben’s mother recalls: ‘They told our son that I had heard the conversation. It was dreadful, he wouldn’t speak to us
‘Social Services said they’d need his phone. Two local policemen arrived and wrestled our son to the ground and took his phone.
‘It was the most harrowing thing i have ever seen, he ended up in a corner sobbing.
‘All he wanted was to have his phone back because one of the groomers had taken over his mind so much he couldn’t bare to be out of contact with him.
‘Earlier in that day i also found pictures of him on his laptop that he had taken of himself, naked images.
‘A safeguarding officer spoke to our son privately and came out and told us our son had been involved sexually with four men.
‘Our world completely collapsed.’
Ben’s mother and her husband were catapulted into an entirely unknown world as the police attempted to bring charges against the men and they attempted to unravel how their son had been groomed to meet up with paedophiles under their nose.
Ben was given weekly support from social services, but his mother and father became increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of police prosecution.
‘We knew the name and whereabouts of one of the men who had abused him, but he wasn’t arrested until seven months later,’ they explain.
‘All through that year people we knew, and the police knew, to be paedophiles were left to roam. There were months between knowledge of these people and arrests, and then even longer before any charges were filed.’
Ben is still in contact with social services as the family attempt to rebuild their lives. Although some of the men responsible for his abuse have been sent to jail, trials continue for others.
Ben’s mother explains: ‘It is a question of time, consistency and appreciating the deep psychological damage that gets done.’