Teenage girl ‘persuaded to have sex and forced to shoplift’ by abusive boyfriend

Cllrs Angela Mason, Sarah Hayward, Abdul Hai and Nasim Ali with NVQ students from Talacre Sports Cen

Cllrs Angela Mason, Sarah Hayward, Abdul Hai and Nasim Ali with NVQ students from Talacre Sports Centre, back row from left Billy Stewart (17), Emily Byrne (17), Reece Thompson (18) and Gustavo Orozco- Ramirez (18) at The Proud Gallery Stables Market Camden Town. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A teenage girl was coerced into sex and arrested after being forced into illegal activities by an abusive boyfriend – and she is just one among hundreds of young victims of domestic abuse in Camden.

The anonymous teenager, from Camden, was pressured by her 16-year-old boyfriend to shoplift and handle stolen goods, which led to her exclusion from school and her arrest.

Soon after, the girl, then 15, realised that her relationship had become toxic and contacted Camden Safety Net, a support service for victims of domestic or sexual abuse.

Her story was told as part of a campaign launched this week by Camden Council to raise awareness of emotional and physical domestic abuse among young people between the ages of 14 and 25.

“Domestic abuse can happen to anybody at any age,” said Rachel Nicholas, safety interventions manager at Camden Council.

“One of the reasons we are targeting young people is that this time last year, the Home Office changed the definition of domestic violence to include 16 and 17-year-olds.”

Camden Safety Net reports that only 21 per cent of the 2,841 people referred to the support service last year were under-25s.

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Ms Nicholas said the low number of young people seeking help from formal services is due to a common perception that only adults can be victims of domestic abuse.

The “Know this isn’t love” campaign hopes to raise awareness among young people with workshops at schools across Camden.

Students from La Swap, a sixth-form consortium made up of four Camden secondary schools, have also worked with the council to design posters and script a powerful short film showing examples of the controlling language used by abusive partners.

Cllr Sarah Hayward, Labour leader of Camden Council, said: “We are working with schools and with youth centres to help young people understand what a healthy, normal relationship is. It’s key really for a local authority.

“[The limitation] should be extended and we should campaign with survivors to see if we can do something about this.”

Reece Thompson, 17, a La Swap student, said: “When my tutor came in to ask people if they wanted to be involved in the campaign, I put up my hand immediately.

“What happens in a relationship is different to how it looks from the outside. If you heard other people talking about it, you would say, ‘It’s not only me, I can talk about it now’.”

To watch the film and find out more information, visit: www.camden.gov.uk/notlove