Read Ben's story

boy looking round a corner'When I was 12, dad married my stepmum. I got a new brother. He was older and bigger than me. At first things were ok. I missed mum but she had a new family. She stopped wanting to see me.

My stepmum started saying things to me. Saying my dad didn't want me. She wouldn't say it if he was there but I believed her. My stepbrother joined in too. Soon it wasn't just words. Soon she started to punch me. Soon it wasn't just punching, it was kicking too. Both of them.

The first time I went to hospital, I had a broken arm and fractioned ribs. The doctors thought I'd got into trouble at school. I didn't tell them the truth. I couldn't. They'd have thought I was making it up. Being a troublemaker. What if dad hadn't believed me? When it was just me and my dad things were ok.

After that, it got worse. When I was 14 I left. I didn't have a plan. I just needed to go. I left Bolton and went to Manchester. On my first night there something happened. This older man, he came up to me. Said I looked like I needed help. And I did. It was cold and I hadn't eaten since I left home. He said he'd look after me and take me somewhere safe.

He took me to his house. Said he had a family and I could live with them until I got myself sorted. He didn't have a family. He locked me in a room… I was there two days before I escaped. What he did…it hurt. It makes me feel bad to think about it, so I try not to think.Boy sitting amongst cardboard boxes

I started living in a car park. I'd been there about two weeks when I first met someone from The Children's Society. I didn't want them to interfere. I thought they might send me home. I told them I was 17 and they went away. Things got worse. I'd been begging but it wasn't enough to eat. It had started getting colder too. When they approached me again, I told them I'd lied.

Just talking to them a bit, I could see that maybe it was ok. Maybe they did care. Maybe they could help. I went to the project. They gave me something to eat and talked to me like I could make my own decisions. Like I wasn't just a child. They let me ring my dad. I told him I was safe but didn't want to come home.

With The Children's Society's help, I got a foster family. I talk to my dad a bit more now. I'm trying to tell him what happened but it's hard. A foster family's not the same as having a real family but at least I feel secure. I'm not afraid anymore.'

Ben, 14

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