I was raped 22 times by a grooming gang who drugged and beat me – I'll never get my childhood back | The SunAugust 27, 2023
WHEN Christina O’Connor, 31, was 13, she fell into the clutches of a grooming gang.
Here, she tells how she helped jail the men who abused her.
Sandwiched in the back of the car with two men, I smiled as Glen (name changed) asked if I’d be his girlfriend.
At 14, I’d never even kissed a boy before, and excitedly I agreed.
I didn’t mind that he was a bit older than me – I was just pleased to have my first boyfriend.
It was January 2006 and I’d only known Glen and his friends for a few months, after meeting them at a bus stop, but they made me feel special.
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I was bullied at school, so it was lovely to have real friends who were so kind.
All my life, I’d been a model daughter and student, but hanging around with these older men made me feel grown up and worldly, and soon, I began staying out late, accepting the drink and drugs they offered me.
I had no idea that these men were part of a grooming gang, who would tear my life apart, subjecting me to almost daily horrific physical and sexual abuse, including rape, which would go on for five terrifying years.
Every evening, I told my unsuspecting parents that I was going to a mate’s house, but instead, I hung out with my new friends, driving around in a man called Pretos’ car.
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He seemed to be the leader, controlling the alcohol and drugs and barking orders.
Growing up, I’d had a happy childhood.
I was an only child and had always been close to my parents, but we began arguing about me coming home late, drunk.
They tried talking to me, but nothing worked.
When I was 14, Pretos invited me to a party.
I expected balloons and fairy lights, but instead, it was full of middle-aged men, mainly of Asian origin.
There were a few other teenage girls there and I recognised a couple from my local area.
One of the men gave me a pill and after I took it, I passed out.
When I came to, Pretos was raping me. I was terrified, but couldn’t fight him off. That was my first experience of sex.
Somehow, I stumbled downstairs and made it home, where I managed to avoid my parents and head straight to the bathroom.
I showered for so long, but I felt like I’d never be clean again.
Pretos messaged me the next day, but I ignored him.
Minutes later, the doorbell rang, there was a group of girls outside.
I told them to leave me alone, but then Pretos texted me: “Get out here, or else.”
Terrified, I did as he said.
He drove me to a clinic to get the morning-after pill, then forced me into a house where I was beaten up by the group of teenage girls.
The men, including Glen, just stood and laughed. I realised then I’d been badly duped.
Bruised and bleeding, I staggered outside and called my parents, telling them I’d been mugged.
They were horrified. Mum burst into tears, while Dad called the police to report the mugging.
I didn’t dare tell them the truth, as I was worried the gang might hurt them.
We were just a normal family – Mum worked as a chef and Dad was a builder.
He was very protective and caring, but I knew even he couldn’t save me.
From then on, Pretos demanded I meet him most nights, and I told my parents I was at friends’ houses.
I was forced to have sex with strange men – sometimes more than one man at once.
The men either used no contraception or just plastic bags.
One night, I was taken to a hotel, raped by three men, and then dumped in a strange town.
Another time, Pretos took me out of school to have sex with a man in his car while he watched.
If I ever refused, he threatened to kill me or my family – I knew he was capable of it and I lived in constant fear.
He often punched me, or threatened me with weapons to keep me in line. I was petrified.
Aged 15, I fell pregnant. Pretos insisted I had a termination, but he expected me to go back out with him the very next day.
By now, Mum and Dad were out of their minds with worry.
They thought I’d fallen in with the wrong crowd, but had no idea how serious it really was.
They kept calling the police, who said it was best to keep me at home, and assumed I was just a teenager going off the rails.
Throughout 2007, our family home was attacked. The windows were smashed, Dad’s tyre wheel was loosened, and gunshots fired through our front window.
I told police officers I had no idea why people were targeting my home, but of course, I knew full well who it was.
By 2010, the gang had started forcing me and other girls to commit robberies.
I discovered I was pregnant again, but the father was nothing to do with the gang, so I hid it from them, knowing they’d make me have a termination.
I told my parents, who said they’d support me. But then, I was arrested for stealing.
In February 2011, I pleaded guilty to assault, burglary, robbery and possession of an offensive weapon.
It was almost a relief when I was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in a young offenders’ institute.
At least I’d be safe. There, I suffered terrible nightmares and confessed to the chaplain what had happened.
She told me I’d been groomed and explained the crimes were just another aspect of grooming.
Eventually, I agreed to speak to the police and gave a statement.
Meanwhile, I had my baby and when I was released after 15 months, I was determined to give my child a good future.
In July 2013, I agreed to co-operate with the police and Operation Tendersea, the investigation into the Huddersfield grooming gang, was launched.
Over three trials in 2018, I gave evidence, along with many other girls, from behind a screen.
The gang of men, masterminded by Pretos, whose real name was Amere Singh Dhaliwal, then 32, were jailed in October 2018 at Leeds Crown Court for a total of 221 years.
Eleven gang members were convicted of a staggering 43 offences against me, including 22 counts of rape.
It was a relief to see them jailed.
But the damage to me and the other victims had already been done – I will never get my childhood back.
Now, after my late dad encouraged me, I’ve decided to waive my right to anonymity and speak out to help make parents, teachers and children aware of grooming and know the signs.
I still struggle with relationships and feel angry that I’ve had very little support – I don’t think any of the girls involved did.
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But I’m determined not to let what happened to me ruin my future, because my child and I deserve more.
- Read Christina’s full story in her book Groomed By A Gang (£8.99, Mirror Books).
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