Entertainment

Child exploitation survivor shares her story


A child exploitation survivor who was groomed by a ‘boyfriend’ who used her to sell drugs has shared her story in a documentary shining a light on the hidden world of girls in gangs. 

Aliyah Morgan, now 24, was born to a drug user father and grew up surrounded by domestic abuse in a house in south London.

‘My mum and my dad would argue all the time. My dad would beat my mum up, we would get beaten,’ she recalls in BBC documentary Hidden Girls

‘There would be no food or no money on quite a few occasions. Me and my sister Paris, we would quite literally cry ourselves to sleep on top of our bunkbed together.’

Aliyah Morgan, now 24, was born to a drug user father and grew up surrounded by domestic abuse in a house in south London. She revealed how she turned her life around in a documentary shining a light on the hidden world of girls in gangs (pictured)

From her earliest years, Aliyah understood that the mood in the family home was ruled by whether her father was able to get drugs that day. 

‘When we used to come home after school and the window would be open, we would know Daddy would have his stuff and we would have a good evening,’ she explained, because it meant he was smoking drugs. 

‘If the window was shut, we were not having a good evening. We knew that our whole lives. That’s what Daddy took for him to be happy but also it made him so horrible.’

Aliyah was first given alcohol aged eight at a family party. She became so intoxicated she had to be rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. After that, drinking became a way to escape. By the age of 13, she was dependent. 

At the same time her parents’ relationship broke down and her father moved out of the family home. 

The property became a trap house, a place used by gangs to sell and store drugs and weapons. 

Traumatic: From her earliest years, Aliyah understood that the mood in the family home was ruled by whether her father was able to get drugs that day. 'There would be no food or no money on quite a few occasions. Me and my sister Paris, we would quite literally cry ourselves to sleep on top of our bunkbed together,' she recalled. Pictured, Aliyah as a child

Traumatic: From her earliest years, Aliyah understood that the mood in the family home was ruled by whether her father was able to get drugs that day. ‘There would be no food or no money on quite a few occasions. Me and my sister Paris, we would quite literally cry ourselves to sleep on top of our bunkbed together,’ she recalled. Pictured, Aliyah as a child

‘Three floors of people selling drugs from my house,’ Aliyah remembered. ‘And using my house as a trap house and a base for them to stay. And it becomes dangerous. Our life was just in survival mode at that point.’

Aliyah was put into care at the age of 12 but began to run away and sleep rough.  She started self-harming – and hurting other people – as a way to process the trauma she had already experienced. 

‘I went through a few things and I had no way to get it out,’ she said. ‘I was drinking more, I was running away more. I was having breakdowns but silent breakdowns with no tears.

‘I didn’t want to die. I don’t think I wanted to die, I just wanted to be free of the pain. It got worse. There was the last time when I took an overdose and they told me that day that I wouldn’t be able to have kids because of the damage it had done to me. That was the last time I ever harmed myself.’

While hanging around with older teenagers, Aliyah was drawn into a world of drugs and violence. She became known for her ruthlessness. 

Aliyah was first given alcohol aged eight at a family party. She became so intoxicated she had to be rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. After that, drinking became a way to escape. By the age of 13, she was dependent. Pictured, Aliyah as a teenager

Aliyah was first given alcohol aged eight at a family party. She became so intoxicated she had to be rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning. After that, drinking became a way to escape. By the age of 13, she was dependent. Pictured, Aliyah as a teenager

‘I was influenced on fighting, robbing. If someone stitched, “Call Aliyah, Aliyah will beat them up”. If someone did something “Call Aliyah”. You look over at my way, or at my people and I’ll come up and knock you out. 

‘I enjoyed beating people up at one point in my life.’ 

She added: ‘It was years of hurting myself and hurting other people. It was because of what I went through – the things that I didn’t deserve to go through, it was affecting me.’

When she was a teenager she met an older man in his 20s who convinced her they were in love and in a relationship. 

‘I sold his drugs,’ she continued. ‘I couldn’t tell that I was being exploited because of what I went through… I was young and I was naïve and I was very, very vulnerable… 

Because of the way that there’s constant access to the child via the internet, [grooming] can happen very quickly. It can go from a simple act like a friend request and very quickly escalate to the sharing of images online 

Hannah Ruschen, child safety online policy officer with the NSPCC

‘You are hearing all the things you want to hear. You are getting so lost in that world that you are not seeing what is actually happening. Or what this older person has got you into.’

Tirion Havard, professor of social work at London South Bank University, explained this ‘boyfriend model’ of exploitation is effective because the victims are so starved of love and affection. 

She said: ‘They are more likely to be looking for genuinely loving relationships so it is not difficult for an older man involved in criminal networks to appear like that.’ 

The rise of social media has also made it even easier for perpetrators to target and groom victims. 

Hannah Ruschen, child safety online policy officer with the NSPCC, told the BBC: ‘Because of the way that there’s constant access to the child via the internet, it can happen very quickly. It can go from a simple act like a friend request and very quickly escalate to the sharing of images online.’  

The turning point for Aliyah began aged 14 when she turned herself into police after running away from her foster carers. 

She was given a youth referral order and placed in Bridges Lane, a care home in Croydon, south London. 

Then 15, Aliyah said it was the first time she experienced discipline and it transformed her life. She is particularly grateful to Rowena Miller, her assigned key worker, who she credits with ‘getting through to her’. 

She continues: ‘It was hard. I had my ups and downs. But it started to pick back up again.’

Seven years ago Aliyah found out she was pregnant and describes her daughter as her ‘saviour’. 

‘I thank the Lord every day for her and for my life. I’m still on a journey. My daughter is in my care, I’m a Mummy, I’ve got a home, not a house, I work, and I’m happy. My community in the area I live in, it smiles at me… And I’m in a better place.’    

Hidden Girls is available to watch on BBC iPlayer 



Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button