I was raped at 14: How I fell in the hands of sex traffickers

[Book extract] He was too confident, too well-rehearsed. I’m sure he ruined the lives of many other girls after me.

 |  19-minute read |   01-03-2018
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“Gordon here,” the man on the other end of the line answered gruffly. “Who’s this?”

“Erm, well… my name’s Caitlin and… erm… I saw your ad in the newspaper?” I said, hesitatingly.

 “Did you now?” he said. “What did the ad say, Caitlin? Do you remember?”

 “Just that you wanted models,” I told him.

I felt so stupid even saying the word – I was no model, and I was sure he knew that even without seeing me.

“And do you want to be a model, Caitlin?” he replied.

“Well… I think so.”

“You think so?”

“I want a job, a part-time job.”

 “Just part-time?”

 “Oh, yes,” I hurriedly told him.

“It would have to be part-time, because I’m still at school.”

“Well, you’re not at school now, are you?” he pointed out.

“No, no, I’m not – I’m waiting to get accepted into my new school. That’s why I need a job, but I would still keep the job when I go back to school. Maybe at weekends?” I wondered aloud, trying to think on my feet and desperately hoping he didn’t think I was some silly little girl.

There was a bit of a pause, and I thought that perhaps Gordon was thinking I didn’t sound serious enough about this – had I blown it?

“What age are you?” he asked me.

“Fourteen,” I whispered.

I thought it best to tell the truth, because he would know as soon as he saw me, if it came to that, but I knew I sounded like a kid anyway.

“Fourteen,” he repeated. “And you’re not at school just now – so where are you?”

“At home,” I told him.

“Ringing round to try and get a job.”

“At home… on your own?” he queried.

I told him that I was and felt as if the job – which I hadn’t thought I would ever get anyway – was slipping through my fingers. I sounded such an idiot, such a child.

“You know what, Caitlin? I might have a job that would be right for you – well, if you’re the right sort of girl, that is. I provide models for very reputable catalogues you know, no rubbish, but we’d have to check and see whether you were what I need. There is a problem though.”

My heart sank.

“There are an awful lot of girls keen to do this – I’d need to see you very soon. Do you think that’s possible? Could we do that?”

It was like a lifeline. I was doing nothing, and it was only mid-morning, so I was free to meet him and might actually get a headstart on all those other girls.

“I could meet you today!”

“That sounds perfect,” he said.

“Listen, if you’re at home anyway, why don’t I just pop round?” And that was it. The deal was done. I gave him my address and he was there within the hour.

I want to scream when I think of it, to turn back the clock, to ask that child, that me, what in the world was she thinking? He wasn’t even that subtle. Catalogues. Checking I was home alone. Being much more interested when he knew my age. “Popping round” almost immediately. He couldn’t have been more obvious. I didn’t get ready as such while I waited, because there wasn’t anything I could have done – I didn’t own any make-up, and I lived in jeans and t-shirts, so there was nothing grown-up that I could change into.

I spent the time on my nerves really – what would he think of me, would he laugh when he saw me, how had I even had the nerve to call him in the first place? I tried to imagine what it would be like if I did get some work.

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Wouldn’t that be a kick in the teeth for my little brother who was always calling me horrible names! Wouldn’t that show people I wasn’t just some silly little teenager waiting to get into school again! I was torn – on one hand, I was wracked with nerves, on the other, I was already imagining how impressive my new job would be.

Before I knew it, the bell rang and I could see Gordon’s shadow through the frosted glass. My stomach was in bits, but when I opened the door and saw a clean, well-groomed man in his thirties standing there, I did feel a bit better.

I had no idea – all that worried me was that he would think I was too childish, that I wasn’t model material. I only wanted a part-time job to earn a little pocket money. The longer I was staying out of school, the less I wanted to go back – maybe this could really work out, I thought. Maybe I could show I was a grown-up and make some money.

I invited Gordon in and he sat on the sofa in our family living room, but there was something not quite right. He was obviously working himself up to tell me something, and I assumed he had decided that I was wrong for the job as soon as he saw me – I was too skinny, too young.

“The problem is, Caitlin,” he told me as I bit my lip and waited for inevitable excuses, “the catalogue work I thought I had has fallen through. I got a call just before I got here. It’ll come back, no doubt about it, but there is always such demand.” I was disappointed but not that surprised. It had been a long shot.

“Well, thanks anyway,” I told him, starting to stand up.

“Sorry to have wasted your time.”

“Hold on a minute,” he interrupted.

“There are always ways round things. Do you know what would help? Do you know what would give you a chance?’ I shook my head. This was all new to me.

“Well, you’d be ahead of the game if you had already done a bit of modelling. Had a portfolio, so to speak and knew your way around it. Would you be up for that?”

“Absolutely!” I told him, not quite believing I might get a chance after all.

“What do I need to do?”

“It’s glamour modelling that really makes you stand out,” he replied.

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Glamour modelling? That sounded great to me. I was such a tomboy but the chance of being glamorous was one I wouldn’t turn down at all, as long as he could help me with it. Maybe he would help me do my make-up, or introduce me to someone who could show me – perhaps he knew an older girl or maybe he had a partner who would teach me the mysteries of lipstick and eyeshadow as I was certainly clueless.

“You sure?” he checked.

“Definitely!” I said. “Never been more sure.” “Just one problem…” “I know – but I can change that!” I blurted out.

“Change what?” he asked, looking confused.

“I can learn how to do make-up, I can learn how to be glamorous… I know I look like a silly little kid, but I can change, honestly I can!”

He stared at me. “It’s not that. It’s not… make-up. You’re too young, Caitlin – you need to be eighteen.”

My face fell. There was nothing I could do about that, was there? I’d thought a quick trip to the shops would do it, but I couldn’t age four years overnight.

“There is a solution…” Gordon told me. “If you’re up for it, that is. It’s difficult to tell these days with girls, but if you were willing to sign a form to say that you were eighteen… Well, who’s to argue?”

“I’ll do it!”, I agreed instantly.

If all that was standing between me and this wonderful new version of Caitlin was a signature, I had no qualms whatsoever. But I still didn’t know what it was; I had no idea what “glamour” modelling meant. I thought maybe he would make me look pretty in nice clothes – if he could make me look eighteen that would definitely help, wouldn’t it? It would get the attention of my parents too and encourage people to see me in a different way and I wouldn’t have to go to school either. In fact, if he could show me how to look that age, I could get one of the other jobs I wanted anyway. It was the perfect solution.

“Let’s get started then,” said Gordon. “Now, we won’t be interrupted, will we?”

I told him that Sam was at school and my parents were out at work – we had the rest of the day ahead of us if we needed it. He must have thought all his Christmasses had come at once. I was gauche and innocent;I didn’t even own a skirt, I was such a tomboy. The house was empty and I looked my age – I looked young. The last thing he actually wanted was for me to look “legal”. I never did get that form to sign.

I can see him in my mind’s eye at the moment as if he was sitting right in front of me. And I hate him – I hate Gordon more than anyone or anything else on this earth because it all began with him. I can see him sitting there, on our sofa, in our living room. He was wearing a striped shirt. He was quite handsome, I suppose, with pale skin and blond spiked hair. He smelt very clean and he was well-groomed, but there was also something about him that made me feel uncomfortable as soon as the talk turned to this so-called “glamour modeling”.

“We’ll take some normal ones on the sofa,” he began and, in retrospect I think it was the use of that word “normal” that made me wonder for the first time. If we started with “normal”, what came after that? It was a fleeting thought; I’m not even sure it came fully to the surface, but perhaps that was him pushing the boundaries a bit, so that he could see how I would react. “Close the curtains,” he told me. No “please”, no niceness, just a demand. It had actually changed very quickly.

book_030118053540.jpgPlease Let Me Go; by Caitlin Spencer with Linda Watson-Brown; Amaryllis, Rs 350.

I should have suspected something then. Closing the curtains made the light very dim and Gordon had no extra lights for his camera. He didn’t adjust anything, or use any additional equipment, so I guess it was just a ruse. I never did see those photos. Maybe he never took any; how would I know? Perhaps he waited to start taking them later. He was extremely no-nonsense, snapping away at me in very ordinary positions, as if he was a bit disinterested by the whole business. But it didn’t take him long to suggest that we move on.

“I think we need a different environment, Caitlin,” he said, packing his things into his holdall. He wasn’t even waiting for my response, he had already decided. “Have you got another room we can use? Actually, now I think about it, let’s go to your room.”

My immediate reaction was, Shit! My room was so childish – it was full of Winnie the Pooh and animal posters. If I’d told him that he probably would have loved it, but I didn’t. Instead I thought of something else – I took him into my mum’s room as it was grown-up. Gordon didn’t question it, he just settled down on the edge of the bed and took his camera out again.

“Come on then,” he said. “Let’s get started.” It was gradual.

I can’t imagine what happened will come as a surprise to anyone reading this and I feel such shame writing it but, slowly, he got me to take bits of my clothing off.

“Take your top off,” he said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, but I was scared. I was shy and a complete stranger was telling me to take my top off – but I did it. I did everything he told me to because I was stuck in the house with a six-foot tall man who was making me feel uncomfortable, and now, just to make things worse, I was in my mum’s room. This had been such a bad idea and it didn’t feel very glamorous at all.

Just as I thought, I can’t imagine anyone looking at these pictures and thinking I’m a model, it hit me: he had taken pictures of me. There were pictures of me. I know it sounds stupid, but as the camera was clicking away, I remember just telling myself, “Get it over with, then he’ll leave”. But the thought that he would eventually leave wasn’t such a comfort anymore – he would have photos of me with my top off.

Why didn’t I just ask him to leave? Well, I was scared and he was big. His size scared me, his presence scared me, and he was very confident. At first I was standing up with my top off, then he told me to get onto the bed. I did everything I was told and then he pulled a pair of hold-up stockings from his bag and tossed them at me. I’d never seen things like that before – they weren’t exactly what my mum wore.

“Put these on,” he snarled.

So I got up and went into the bathroom but I didn’t know how to put them on. Eventually, I worked it out and with embarrassment washing over me, returned to Mum’s bedroom. I felt stupid; I looked stupid.

Gordon didn’t seem to think so. He nodded, took some more pictures and then said, “Take everything off.” I still had my pants on, but surely he didn’t mean for me to take those off? He did.

I was so scared, my stomach was churning and I cursed my own naivety. He never said what the photos were for at this point – so did I still believe it was for some sort of portfolio that would get me ahead of the game when catalogue work came in? I really don’t know; I think I was on autopilot and it was the first time that I started dissociating too. Maybe it was survival instinct that made me do everything Gordon asked because I knew he could hurt me if he chose to. If that’s what it was, I was an even bigger fool than I suspected.

But I didn’t ask him anything; I was quiet and submissive, I did as I was told, almost thankful he wasn’t touching me. However, after a while – I have no idea how long, I have no idea about any of the time frame that day, really – we both heard the front door open and then slam close. There were voices travelling upstairs as we heard footsteps head towards the kitchen – it was Sam home for lunch with some of his friends.

I jumped up from the bed and put my head round the door of Mum’s room. “Don’t come upstairs, Sam, don’t come up here!” I yelled. “I’ve just got out of the bath!”

“Shut up!” my little brother yelled. “As if I’d want to see you!”

I just need to keep Gordon quiet, I thought, and then get rid of him once Sam leaves for school. This has been a terrible, terrible mistake, but he’ll know now that he has to go. It’ll all be over soon. I was more naïve than I had ever realised. By the time I closed the door and turned round, Gordon was already taking his clothes off. He was behind me, standing at the end of the bed; he didn’t stop removing them when I saw him.

I’d never seen a man naked before – I was in shock. “You’ll have to go!” I hissed.

“You have to leave right now!”

“You better be quiet or your brother will hear, and your mum will find out what you’ve done. Shut up and do as I say.”

If you’re in that situation – you’ve invited a strange man into your family home and let him take naked pictures of you – how do you, as a fourteen-year-old, get out of that? There was no way, at least none that I could see. I know now that anything I would have faced would have been better – Mum shouting at me, Sam finding out, getting grounded for years, never being trusted again. Anything. Anything. He raped me. On the bed. Gordon raped me. He didn’t use a condom – why would he? Obviously he knew that I would let him do anything he wanted. I’d never had sex before and he knew that, he could tell – I’d imagine it was very obvious.

At one point, he actually laughed and said, “You’re a virgin, aren’t you?” I didn’t even answer that.

From that point on I dissociated very quickly – I didn’t cry, but I knew it hurt. I cleaned up afterwards, terrified there would be evidence on Mum’s duvet cover, never thinking for one second that it might be evidence I could use against him. All I can remember thinking was, if my mum comes home, she’ll kill me for being in her bed. That was what concerned me more than anything. I thought I’d be in so much trouble: not him, me.

I heard Sam and his friends leave, and Gordon was quick to leave after that. I guess he’d got everything he came for – he had naked pictures of a fourteen-year-old and he’d raped a virgin. I can’t help but think that was a good day’s work for a bastard like him. And he had me wrapped around his little finger. I hadn’t fought back at any point; in fact, I’d covered for him and made excuses when my little brother and his friends had turned up. That had been a potential escape route – what if they’d seen a man there? What if they’d seen me half-naked? Surely any of that was better than what had happened?

Before he left, Gordon made it clear to me that I was in a terrible place now.

“You wouldn’t want your mum finding out what a bad girl you’ve been now, would you?” he sneered. “That you called a stranger? That you invited me here? Let me in, brought me up to this room, took your clothes off, let me take pictures – and the rest. I wonder what she’d say? Just you remember, I’ve got lots of photos I could show her, show anyone really.”

“Please,” I begged him, “please don’t tell her.”

How stupid was that? He laughed at me, laughed right in my face – I guess he couldn’t believe how well this had all worked out. There I was, pleading with him, the man who had just raped an underage girl, not to tell my mum things that didn’t really matter. I should have been screaming from the rooftops, he should have been the one who was frightened about what I might do.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we? Here…’ he said, very casually, throwing £10 at me, “buy yourself some better underwear for next time.”

The way he said it and the look on his face made it very clear to me that there was no questioning this: there would be a next time. He was in charge, he was calling the shots, and I had no say in the matter. Then he kissed me on the cheek and said he would be in touch. I saw him to the door and then I went upstairs, almost on autopilot and ran a bath. As the water poured, I slowly lay myself down on the floor. It was cold and I could feel the aching in my body, where he had pushed himself, and where he had violated me. The first time should never be like that, it should never be like that at any time for anyone. I was bleeding a bit, but I just felt so ashamed. So dirty and ashamed. As I lay there, the weeping began, and when I finally turned the taps off, my face was soaked with the tears I thought would never stop.

I got into the bath and then… nothing. My mind goes blank.

I must have got dressed again, because the next thing I recall is Mum coming home. I’m not sure how much time had passed – certainly a few hours because of the amount I can guess between Sam being there for lunch and the time it was when she came in – but I’ve no idea what else I did, it’s just a void. When I try to think back, I remember those parts as if it was yesterday: I can see him in my mind, I can even smell him. I know that I was in agony and I remember the feeling of deep, deep shame that washed over me, but there are gaps. I knew he had raped me because I knew what happened before and afterwards, and I recalled the pain (which I still had), but those memories were like snapshots, disjointed frames with blank scenes which no amount of effort could bring back.

I want to go back and save her – I want to save that girl, that child. And I want to do terrible things to Gordon, because that can’t possibly have been the first time he did it – he was too confident, too well-rehearsed. I’m sure he ruined the lives of many other girls after me.

I want to save her – and I want to stop him.

The truth is though… we’re only just beginning.

(Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Amaryllis.)

Also read: Reasons behind Karti Chidambaram's arrest

Writer

Caitlin Spencer Caitlin Spencer @mscaitspencer

Author of bestseller 'Please Let Me Go'. Survivor of sex trafficking in the UK

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