*PLEASE NOTE: Names of all individuals were changed in order to protect those affected in this story*
Stability, consistency and nurture are crucial elements for any child’s development and to ensure they have the best shot and a healthy lifestyle. This was far from the case, for Ria.
Ria lived with her mother and very rarely saw her father. Her earliest memory was being 3 years old and hit with a chair that was meant for her mother. This was just the start to the turmoil she would face. Her mother was physically abusive and allowed multiple men to also be aggressive towards Ria. This became part of a normal routine for her as well as watching her mother abuse drugs and alcohol throughout this time period.
As she got older her mother began leaving her with anyone that would take her and there came a time that she very rarely saw her mum until the age of 8, where if life wasn’t hard enough, her world would be turned upside down.
Ria spent many months in court with her mother as she made allegations of physical abuse against Ria's father and stepfather. None of which, Ria can recall actually taking place. Amongst these memories, Ria recalls moving to London with her mother, younger siblings and stepfather.
What should of been her home and place of safety was a building she simply resided in with multiple men that she didn’t know, becoming very present in her life. But why were they there?
“I was stripped down to nothing, mum put makeup on my face and did my hair really nice and then we would wait for the person to come”
She could never remember the faces of the men that would come into the room or what happened. She described the orange juice that as her mum would make her to drink.
“She used to make orange juice with white powder in it to make me woozy” a terrifying experience for a young child to endure and not remember what happened to herself in between. Ria was then groomed to sell drugs on her mums’ behalf until she reached year 6 (aged 10). It was around this time that she met a boy slightly older than her who began to figure out why she was on the streets at that age, at all times of the day and night without any parental guidance.
“He said he would look after me and if I got in trouble with the police, he would take the blame.” Soon after meeting him, she was introduced to his gang who also made her the same promise in return for her to sell drugs for them. “I used to hear about their plans to stab and shoot other people from different gangs, but they kept me out of that stuff". But inevitably, selling drugs for them wasn’t enough. “I had to set up girls, they knew I made friends easily so I would have to take them to a location and leave them there. I don’t know what happened to the girls".
Ria finally moved out of the area at age 14 and cut ties with the old gang members but she still remained very much intertwined in this vicious cycle. “I made friends with a guy in my new area called Rico. He knew who I was and what I did, and I later found out that one of the girls I set up was his sister. So, we weren’t actually friends. The next thing I know, he gets close to my mum. They were sleeping together but he promised not to tell her what I had done.”
Rico belonged to a gang that was the opposition to the gang Ria was working for, before she knew it, she had begun a sexual relationship with Rico's’ friend André. Ria fell pregnant shortly after. At 15 and pregnant, she had no one to turn to for nurture, guidance and reassurance. She kept her pregnancy hidden until she was around 6 months and it couldn't be kept a secret no more. Then one day, her little secret was finally exposed as her baby sister pointed at her belly, saying “baby, baby” right in front of their mother. Ria ran upstairs and as she said, she considered jumping out the window, but it was too late. Rico and her mum were stood in front of her and before she knew what to say, Rico grabbed her by her hair and threw her down the stairs. Ria was then viciously attacked by Rico's friends and left lying in a puddle of her own blood.
She had no choice but to take herself to the hospital by bus, “when I got there, I was told I was dilating a and baby’s head was low, so they removed the baby by force. He only survived 24 hours. After they offered me £2000 to not say anything, I refused it and left.” The injuries that were left after Ria's attack was 4 broken ribs and the loss of her child.
Days later she returned to her mother’s property where she was met by social services, after they completed their safeguarding assessments they deemed everything was safe and left Ria at home with the same woman who groomed her and failed to parent Ria during her pregnancy.
Ria suffered again once she returned home. She fell pregnant again aged 16, but this time she had no recollection of who she was pregnant by and when her pregnancy was conceived. However, this time, Ria was finally taken in by a relative who managed to offer her some stability whilst she lived with her.
Unfortunately, Ria went back to the horrendous cycle of being used and abused despite all she already had to endure once she moved out into independent living. It is believed she was recently "set up" by a girl who was her friend and facilitated another assault on Ria whilst she was asleep.
During this time period and at present she receives no support from local authority or any other organisation to enable her to address these issues and provide her with resources to keep herself safe. These nightmare-like events will be with Ria for the rest of her life.
This is Ria’s story. What’s yours?
If you would like to share your story here please email us: Azariah@daddylessdaughters.co.uk
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