Disclosure: I speak from personal experience and give advice that I feel relevant and beneficial. I am by no means a professional.
I grew up without my father, don’t get me wrong I always know who and where he was I just didn’t have a relationship with him. By no means am I saying that I have daddy issues but I certainly didn’t have a positive male role model in which to form a judgement or basis of how a man should treat a Woman. My mum was a young mum herself, a good mum in many respects, but still a girl still finding her place in the world, I did not grow up with money and my mum grafted in order to ensure we had better.
Being the oldest sibling in my household I took on a lot in many respects from the age of 11 onwards I felt like I knew everything. By the age of 14 I was interested in boys. I’m going to be honest here, I had 2 serious relationships by the age of 15 and had become sexually active, both lasted over a year and both were very intense. Both of these relationships where with guys older than me not much older but a few years it was still wrong I was a child and only now through maturing have I understood this. I learnt from these experiences or so I thought that I had found a power. I wasn’t the best looking but I knew that I had a charm and nature that men found me very endearing. I was well developed from a young age and received a lot of comments/compliments about my figure.
Moving forward a year or two, I was constantly approached my men that where much older. I’d have guys stop me in their cars and tell me how great I looked and would form “friendships” with these guys. Not all were sexual but now looking back, I most definitely understand that this was the only interest these guys had. By this time I had learnt to be more guarded, feisty and even confrontational but this didn’t put them off, it’s as if they enjoyed the challenge, I enjoyed it too as I said it made me feel powerful I realised that as a female I had this power… or so I thought.
Recently, these issues have been highlighted in the media and on our TV screens, I mean who’s been following the story line of Bethany Platt in Corrie. The story line has had a mixed response with some describing it as “disgusting” and others stating that is “necessary” in order to highlight sexual abuse/ grooming and the many forms it can take.
I remember back to when I was about 15 my two best friends at the time sat me down and said to me “what are you doing” and basically told me to “fix up.” They were concerned for my well-being and safety, they could identify that something wasn’t quite right but blindly I chose to ignore and address the real issue. I just didn’t care and the only way to deal with what was really going on, was to become defensive, I was in denial. I ended up in some real sticky situations. Fortunately, I managed to identify that my behaviours where a risk to my well-being, however nobody knew the true extent of what I was going through. It’s almost as if I had this secret life. I’d go to school and college throughout the week and my weekends were spent elsewhere. The guys I was with had no regard for my safety or well-being, yet I was in awe of them; money, cars and fast lifestyles. I didn’t have to worry about anything- food, cigarettes, I had everything that I thought I wanted, but I soon realised that all of this was just a bargaining tool, a way of making me feel as though the intentions of these individuals were good. When I reflect upon that time in my life, I now have the understanding that this was in fact a form of grooming and it devastates me. Who knows what predicaments I could I have ended up in, had I not become so head strong. The age of consent in the UK is 16, but the question is at 16 does any young person, as grown as they think they may be, have the capacity to consent to or understand sex?
By 18 I had calmed down I met a cool guy and moved away from where I had grown up. People will say where were your parents, and as I said, it was only my mum, I lived between my mum and my grans house growing up, I did not grow up around my cousins or older siblings, my mum was always at work and as I was mature I was trusted and left to my own devises. I’m not resentful to the fact that nobody was there as I have learnt lessons in life and experienced things I never would have and to be honest it’s made me wise, much wiser than my years.
I don’t usually share these things because, to a point, I feel shame and it makes me feel quite sick but I understand its important to speak on it because in this age where social media is rife and, lets face it, young girls look far older than they did back in my day, I know its something that still goes on. In school we are taught sex education but we weren’t educated on the complexities of consent or even what grooming was and I honestly feel as though I may have experienced these things without realising at the time. It’s all well and good teaching our young people about the birds and the bees but how do we educate our girls and help them to identify these predators?
According The Guardian One in three teenage girls has suffered sexual abuse from a boyfriend and one in four has experienced violence in a relationship. The survey, which was carried out by the NSPCC and Bristol University, found that of the 1,353 teenage girls and boys that where questioned across the UK, nearly 90% of girls aged 13 to 17 had been in an intimate relationship. Surely at this age, the complexities of intimate relationship’s can’t be understood and its absolutely no surprise that the side affects of this are carried into adult life resulting in self-confidence issues, lack of self love, trust issues and a distorted perception of what a healthy relationship entails.
So how do we really address the issues that are going on? Where do we even start? My personal opinion is that we need to speak up on things like this without being fearful or facing stigmas such as being called a hoe, a slag, a jezzy, whatever the choice of word is these days, because there is more to it. The issue is deeper. Bottom line is these guys that choose to trouble young/younger girls are nothing but sexual predators.
Now that I have matured and learnt to love my flaws. I got a buzz from being promiscuous, (not sexually, but in terms of the things I was exposed to) I felt a place of belonging, it was exhilarating and it was an escape. My message to young girls is to think of how you would want your daughters to be treated? Are these the type of relationships that you would encourage if you were a parent? Are you able to be honest about who you are with and where you are? We have the responsibility to teach our daughters and sons the importance of consent, and not just in its purest most simplistic form, but to also educate them about the many forms of abuse that can take place, as a result of their trust and love being put into ultimately taken advantage of.
To any young girl reading this, yes you are powerful in every aspect you have the ability to be whatever you want to be, you are the driver of your own destiny, you are strong, you are resilient, you are a future giver of life, you are beautiful. If you don’t have anybody to speak to, know that there are people you can talk to, speak to your parents, listen to your parents because believe it or not they do know best. Most of all, slow down, there is no rush to grow up. There are implications to your physical well-being and mental wellbeing. Emotions are at the forefront of sex, being sexually active and not understanding the complexities involved in it, can be toxic, and sadly can result in a misrepresentation of what love is, please do not confuse the two.
Please find links below to professional bodies and organisations that can offer advice and support.
Written By Elisha Afia Grace
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