I am Claire.
When I was a kid my home was a bad place to be. Mum and dad hadn’t worked for a long time. Mum was ill a lot of the time, I don’t think I ever saw her smile. Mine was not a loving home. It seemed like my dad and older brother were always drunk and would sometimes beat me up – mum just turned a blind eye.
When I got a bit older I found a boyfriend, Ben. Ben was older than me and he made me feel special, he said loved me, he gave me the attention I was crying out for. Ben said I made him smile and he showed me off to his friends. Then one night things changed, Ben started “sharing me” around his mates – he said that this was because he was proud of me… I thought that this was LOVE.
None of my family knew about Ben, they didn’t seem to care about me. One day things got so bad at home that I couldn’t take it any longer so I walked out and closed the door behind me, I had no idea where I was going, I just knew I had to get away.
I moved around a bit, living in different places sometimes with Ben and his mates, sometimes with people I just met. I wasn’t SAFE.
Time went by and I moved away from Ben and started living with Pete who was more my age. With Pete I got pregnant and we had a baby girl. Pete didn’t stay around for long after the birth. I tried so hard to look after my baby girl, but my life was just chaos and felt so alone. It didn’t take long for things to really take a nose dive and my baby girl was put up for adoption. It broke my heart to give away by baby, I was devastated… I had lost my baby and l lost my DREAMS.
That’s when things really got out of control. I felt like I had just disappeared off the radar – my family didn’t give a ~*&# about me, no one did!!.
I was 19 and living in stinking flats and taking what drugs I could get my hands on. I was desperate, I was angry, I was broken and just wanted to escape it all. I had more boyfriends and we would drink alcohol and take drugs almost every night - then we would argue and I would end up getting beaten up (same old story), it was always the same. But with the drugs I thought I’d found my escape, I thought that this was FREEDOM
I had to find money to buy the drugs and alcohol and one of the girls in the room next to me was ‘working’ on the streets so she could buy drugs for herself and her boyfriend. I thought back to when Ben had ‘sold’ me to his mates he had made some money – so I decided, in desperation, to sell myself to make some cash - this became my FUTURE.
I knew the street in Stockton where the girls worked…
The first time with a punter was the worst – I hated myself after being with him and escaped from the sickening feeling back into the drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t long before I soon learnt not to wear high heels and tight mini skirts – if you pick up a bad punter you need to run – run fast – trainers and jogging bottoms are safer. When I was out ‘working’ on the streets I would see the A Way Out van driving around. At first I tried to avoid them and told them to do one! But the other girls told me that they were good people, so after a while I accepted a hot drink and a biscuit and chatted with them for a couple of weeks… that’s when things began to change…
It took a while for Claire to build up trust and Claire was provided with an A Way Out case worker who arranged safe accommodation, addiction treatment and eventually counselling – things stared to calm down and very gradually Claire stopped sex working and reduced the alcohol and drugs. Claire found a more stable relationship and discovered she was pregnant again and this time Claire was determined to keep her baby. Working with social services her A Way Out case worker helped Claire put her life on track for motherhood. When Claire’s baby son was born she was able to care for him with continued support.
Having a positive experience motherhood, Claire told her case worker that she would like to try to reconcile her relationship with her own mother. With support from A Way Out’s Families Worker who worked alongside Claire’s mum this was made possible over time.
Today Claire visits A Way Out and today she is smiling. Today she is clean and healthy and today, in her arms, she is nursing her beautiful son… a picture depicting warmth and love… we know Claire’s picture has not always looked so perfect. She has travelled through dark places, but now she has a future which is brighter and filled with HOPE.