Barnardo's outreach workers on the systematic exploitation of young people, and why abusers need to be targeted proactively

Sarah is 18 but looks much younger. Her tiny frame is engulfed by a tracksuit top, her hair scraped back, her huge eyes clear of makeup. In the private room of a Barnardo's project, she nervously plays with a heart-shaped cushion.

She was 15, she explains, when she and her 14-year-old cousin met a group of men in a takeaway in a run-down area of their home town. Over a few weeks, the men who said they were 18 but were in fact in their late 20s showered them with gifts and attention. Before long often with their 11-year-old cousin in tow the girls were going to "parties" around the north of England and further afield where much older men would be waiting.

"They were nice at first," said Sarah, not making eye contact. "Then they got nasty. They started touching me. My cousin went along with it; they said it was a bit of fun. But I don't like people touching me."

Sarah knew what they wanted, but she refused and was punched as a result. "I punched them back," she says. "I'm only little, but I'm tough." Her cousin reacted differently; before long she was having sex with a much older "boyfriend", until one night she was raped by one of his friends.

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now why the fuck are our youth are being sexualized? let them get pregnant for all i care because once the girl is pregnant. her future is ruined