Natalie's story

Natalie has attempted suicide over ten times and was homeless when she was referred to us

Natalie was sexually abused by her step dad from the age of four.

She was taken into care at six years old, and by the time she was 15 Natalie had been in 47 different placements.

This is her story.

Natalie's home life

Natalie lived with her mum, her brothers and sisters and her mum’s boyfriend John.

She was just four years old when John started sexually abusing her and her siblings.

The abuse went on for two years before anyone found out, and John ended up in prison. He was sentenced to just three years in custody.

Aged six, Natalie and her siblings were removed from their home and put in foster care, but were separated across different placements.

Once John was released from prison, Natalie’s mum chose to take him back, leaving all the children in foster care.

‘It hurt me that she didn’t want any of us back, and helped the man who raped all of her children. Why didn’t she protect me?’

'At the age of nine I found my sister...she had hung herself'

As the years went on, Natalie struggled to understand her mother’s way of thinking. Her older sister found it too difficult to cope.

'She couldn’t deal with the issues and the rejection from mum. At the age of nine I found my sister…she had hung herself.’

Following her sister’s tragic suicide, Natalie remained in foster care where she was moved between placements over the next few years.

‘No-one really wanted me, or I was too much work. By the age of 15 I had been in 47 placements. How are you expected to trust people when you’re passed around and no one takes the time to talk to you?’

Natalie was eventually housed in a flat outside of her local area

She was on her own and didn’t know anyone.

‘I was lonely, I was scared. I really struggled with the loneliness. I managed to attend college, but going home to an empty flat, with no friends, no support, no anything, was too much.’

At her most vulnerable, Natalie met Ryan. He was older and paid Natalie attention, cooking her meals and buying her flowers.

Soon though, Ryan’s behaviour changed. He started telling Natalie what to wear or how to do her hair, and eventually he introduced her to heroin.

'He loved me, so I thought. He got me hooked on heroin and I couldn’t live without him. Yes, he beat me up and broke my leg when I did something wrong, but he loved me. He was my world'

Natalie has attempted suicide ten times

‘I would do his drug deals for him and have sex with his friends to pay debts. He would drive me up and down making me sell drugs, collect drugs and take me to house parties. He loved me, that’s why he looked after the money.’

Sex work became Natalie’s life, and over the next few years she started self-harming by burning herself. Natalie has attempted suicide ten times.

At 24 years old, Natalie was homeless and using sex work to fund her heroin addiction. She was introduced to us by a homeless charity, who recognised that she needed further support.

teenage girl looking directly at camera

Finding hope

Natalie came to us and met her project worker, Kelly. At first, she was sceptical about receiving support.

‘At our initial meeting her thoughts were 'no-one can help'. She was very negative and reluctant to engage, given her history with statutory and voluntary agencies’ says Kelly.

Kelly gradually built up trust with Natalie. They started meeting regularly through one-to-one therapy sessions, where Kelly supported Natalie to explore her past trauma and understand her addiction.

‘She can talk openly about her worries, looking back at her childhood and how the abuse has affected her. I also make sure we have breakout sessions as work can become upsetting and draining for her, we go for a coffee or a walk at the beach’.

A brighter future

Natalie is now 25 and continues to battle her addiction. Kelly still supports Natalie through one-to-one sessions, has secured Natalie a place in a rehabilitation centre where she can withdraw from heroin and address her mental health issues.

Natalie writes poems about her experiences, and in the future hopes to talk about her journey to support her rehabilitation and inspire others.

Find out more about our work supporting young people