A Panorama investigation has uncovered how girls, sometimes as young as 12, are being groomed for prostitution by gangs on the streets of Britain. In what is often a hidden crime, gangs are targeting young girls in a process that starts as adolescent fun but soon leads to abuse, drug addiction and prostitution.
The girls are often flattered by the attentions of older boys and like the idea of having an older boyfriend, but the initial friendship can soon turn ugly. We spoke to "Jane" who got caught up with one of the gangs. She told Panorama that it all started when she met a group of boys in the local town centre:
"The grooming starts when you meet them and they're nice to you and take you for McDonalds and buy you cigarettes. I was flattered by it at first cos older boys were interested in you, which at 13 is nice." But things took a sinister turn when the boys brought their friends, who were older, and Jane realised she'd been passed on. The abuse started with Jane being held down by two of the men while another raped her.
She was too scared to tell her parents and within weeks she was trapped and pimped, being forced to have unprotected sex with a succession of men day after day. She explains how the gang introduced her to drugs, building up a debt that had to be worked off by sleeping with lots of different men. Although the gang was making money from Jane, she never saw a penny of it.