Freya was 14 when we met her. She’d been trying to get a train to Glasgow to meet a boy she’d met online but had been stopped when the woman in the ticket office asked her a few questions. She was one of the many hundreds of station staff members we’d helped train with British Transport Police so they knew what danger signs to look out for. When Freya wouldn’t say where she was going and who with they were suspicious and called her mum. She thought Freya was in school and had no idea what was happening.
Freya was referred to our team by BTP and over the next few weeks our project workers started visiting Freya regularly and finding out why she’d been putting herself in such danger.
The teenager had been bullied at school for months but hadn’t told anyone. Other girls had been making fun of her on social media, and she didn’t have any close friends.
One night she accepted a friend request from a boy based in Glasgow. He claimed to be 17 and told her he understood how she felt. Soon they were texting every night. He made her laugh and made her feel more confident than she had in ages. He told Freya he had fallen in love with her and was desperate to meet her in person. He sent her the money for her train fare and she decided to spend the day with him instead of going in to school to face more of the continuous bullying that was making her so miserable.
Once we’d explained to Freya what it means to be groomed and passed the details of her friend to the police, they discovered he was a 44-year-old man who had been talking to dozens of vulnerable young girls online just like Freya.
It doesn’t bear thinking what might have happened if she had gone to his house. We’re still working with Freya, and her family and her school.
We’ve helped them all find better ways to deal with the bullying and thanks to our support Freya is feeling far more positive. Every session with Freya costs £20 and we won’t stop until we know she’s not going to put herself in that kind of danger again.
Wherever possible we gained consent of the children pictured in accordance with our child protection policy. Names have been changed and models used to protect identities.