As a hard-hitting report released today suggests that thousands of children a year across England are sexual abused by gangs and groups, one young victim tells her harrowing tale.
Emma, now 15, was just 12 years old when she was raped by an older family friend. After the abuse she was lured into drink and drugs by older boys, before being raped by several men at a friend's party when she was just 13.
She said: "Things were going well when I was 12, I had lots of friends and was doing well in school. Then things started going wrong. I was raped by my friend’s older cousin.
"Then I started to stop caring, I lost pride in myself. I started messing about at school, talking back to the teachers and walking out of class.
"I was offered some weed and I thought why not?
"On my 13th birthday I went out with my friends and we met some lads. They took us out in their cars and gave us whizz, weed and drink. Then they started texting us and wanting us to come out all the time.
"I would stay out all night and come home at 5am. I don’t know why I did it, I guess it was exciting. It was tearing my family apart, I know that now.
"My mum and dad stuck by me but I was out of control. I was lost really."
One night Emma and her friend were driven by some local men to a hotel and locked in a room. "They’d been giving us drink all night so we were really drunk. I had thrown up and felt terrible.
"I was so scared but when we were alone I rang the police and they came to the hotel and took me and my friend home."
A few weeks later Emma was at a friend’s house – her parents were out – when some older boys and men turned up with drink and drugs.
"I don’t know how it happened but I ended up in a room on my own with one of them. He raped me and then other men came.
"They took turns. I just laid there. Inside I was in bits, I just felt so empty. I saw some money on the side and managed to drag myself up and snatch it.
"I ran out of the house and got a taxi home. I told my mum when I got in – it was awful. I felt so dirty, I couldn’t shower, I had to wait for the police and have all these tests. I had bruises all over."
Emma was then referred to a Barnardo’s project that specialises in helping victims of child sexual exploitation.
She added: "Barnardo’s has really helped me. My worker, Charlotte, listened to me, never judged me. She made me realise that what had happened wasn’t my fault, I was just a child."
Emma is now back in school, where she hopes for a better future and wants to go to college.
She has regained self esteem and pride in herself, and has expectations of what a healthy relationship should be like.
She said: "There are so many young girls out there who are in danger. You have to be careful not to end up like I did – I might be a teenager but I’ve gone through more than most 40 year olds.
"You might think these boys like you and they’re being nice giving you all these things for free - but you don’t get anything for free."