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Groomed: Part 2 of 3: Danger lies closer than you think

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Groomed: Part 2 of 3: Danger lies closer than you think
Casey Watson

It’s late on Friday night when Casey’s mobile starts to ring. She is expecting it to be her daughter Riley. But it isn’t Riley. It’s a woman from the Emergency Duty Team. So begins Casey and Mike’s latest fostering challenge – a fifteen-year-old girl called Keeley who’s run away from her long-term foster home 25 miles away.The Jonathan Ross Show has just started when Casey gets the call. She thinks it will be Riley – telling her that her favourite actor is going to be on TV. But it’s something far more urgent: a fifteen-year-old girl who has run away from her foster family and accused her foster father of sexual abuse. The family deny in vehemently, but such an allegation can never be taken lightly, so a new home must be found for Keeley.Keeley is polite, but she’s sharp, and she has all the hallmarks of a child who has been in the system a long time, and knows how to play it. Whether the allegation is true or not, Casey knows there will be no winners here. If it is true, then a young girl’s life has been torn asunder. If not, then the heartache for the family will only be surpassed by the bleak outlook for Keeley.In the short term, it’s a case of providing a safe, supportive home for a vulnerable child. But with the dangerous world of the internet at her disposal, it seems this strong-minded youngster has her own ideas of where that safe place should be…

(#u51a27b98-50ee-53c3-b188-e65d9145c380)

Copyright (#u51a27b98-50ee-53c3-b188-e65d9145c380)

This book is a work of non-fiction based on the author’s experiences. In order to protect privacy, names, identifying characteristics, dialogue and details have been changed or reconstructed.

HarperElement

An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk)

First published by HarperElement 2017

FIRST EDITION

© Casey Watson 2017

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library

Cover image © Jan Bickerton (posed by model)

Cover layout © HarperCollinsPublishers 2017

Casey Watson asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

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www.harpercollins.co.uk/green (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/green)

Source ISBN: 9780008127600

Ebook Edition © September 2017 ISBN: 9780008217648

Version: 2017-08-18

Contents

Cover (#u3d1390d7-010e-5df3-a989-0e4c7f549ecd)

Title Page (#u1ef60fb0-e326-5f54-a107-45db99395ff4)

Copyright (#ue112bd20-be3e-5ac3-b88f-61d59f6df596)

Chapter 9 (#u996e667e-9279-5f13-8c6f-9f3f1d0dd120)

Chapter 10 (#u29c10af4-9d00-5f24-95eb-2c37f40aa475)

Chapter 11 (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 12 (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 13 (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 14 (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 15 (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 16 (#litres_trial_promo)

Moving Memoirs eNewsletter (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 9 (#u51a27b98-50ee-53c3-b188-e65d9145c380)

To my acute disappointment, not to mention sadness, Keeley’s notes didn’t make for the best reading. There was little in them that I didn’t already know, and what little I hadn’t known only served to confirm that there had been a reason for her being parted from her siblings, in the form of a big question mark hanging over her. A question mark about her that had effectively sealed her fate. And all sparked by a disclosure from a four-year-old.

It was usual, at the point when children are removed into care following a crisis, for any who are old enough to be interviewed. In the case of the McAlister children, this duly happened, the four- and six-year-olds, Courtney and Aaron (who’d been billeted together), both having been questioned about what happened on the night when the police came.

Mike’s assumption had been right. The children had initially been fostered separately for practical reasons, there being no one available to take them all. So it was that Keeley was fostered on her own, the middle two to a temporary foster home together, and the babies – the ones with the best chance of an untroubled future – into foster care alone, with a view to being quickly adopted. All of which I already knew, of course.

What I hadn’t known, however, was that, at that point, there’d been no plan to separate them permanently. Even with the younger two going up for adoption that didn’t preclude some sort of contact being maintained. And perhaps they’d have been reunited – at least in terms of regular contact – but for one thing. That the four-year-old, Courtney, when questioned about the man who’d done horrible things to her, had mentioned that Keeley had not only been there, but had also been the one ‘guarding the door’. She’d been confused and upset – this, too, had been recorded in the notes – and apparently they’d been unsure what she meant, quite, but of course (I say ‘of course’ because I might have felt the same) alarm bells about Keeley had begun ringing – and the person who’d interviewed Courtney had been anxious for clarification.

There had already been concerns that, as the oldest (and a pretty girl), Keeley herself might well have been regularly abused by the drug dealers – this man included – who profited from her mother’s addiction. There was no evidence of abuse, because Keeley had always refused to speak to anyone about it (perhaps, I mused, because she was old enough to understand the potential consequences of sharing anything with the official-looking women who were in and out of her mother’s life) but the possibility that her mother had allowed her to be had already been discussed.

I read on, painting a picture that I really hoped I wouldn’t. A picture of a girl who might well have been sexually abused for years, and by a series of men. And I didn’t doubt that was what went through the minds of whoever was responsible for sorting out the mess, because if she had been sexually abused from a young age, there was a fair chance she might be sexually inappropriate around her younger siblings. No point wishing otherwise – I knew that. Because it was something that happened all the time.

But had it in this case? And would it in the future? It seemed not at all clear. Keeley – then just ten – had already been questioned about the night they’d been taken and, raging against everyone, wanting only to be back with her family, she had refused to say anything about it. So they tried again, anxious to piece together her role in what happened, because so much depended on that one central question. And eventually persistence bore fruit. It was all there in the records.

‘Your sister said that you were holding the door while it was happening,’ went the question. ‘Keeley, were you?’

‘No,’ she’d said. ‘No, I wasn’t there!’ She’d apparently said it several times, too. But eventually, perhaps sick of the endless inquisition, she’d apparently screamed that all right, yes, she was there, and that of course she’d been holding the door shut. ‘I had to!’ she’d told them. ‘It’s my job to!’

The social worker questioning her had apparently then asked, ‘So it was your job to watch, was it? To watch and guard the door when the man came?’

And Keeley had apparently confirmed it.

‘Did you know about all this?’ I asked Danny, as early as was appropriate the following morning. I was keen to get hold of him in the window of opportunity between him getting to work and Keeley waking from her lengthy slumbers. I just couldn’t stop trying to answer my own question. Guard it against whom? The nosy neighbour? Keeley’s off-her-face mother? The police?

‘Yes, of course,’ Danny said, seemingly surprised that I even felt the need to bring it up. ‘Didn’t you?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘EDT didn’t have all this, did they? That’s why I’ve been so keen to get my hands on Keeley’s full records. Seriously, Danny, she has absolutely no idea why she was separated from her brothers and sisters. Did you know that?’

There was a pause. Possibly pregnant. ‘Of course,’ he said again.

‘But you’ve never discussed it with her?’

‘No, of course not …’ He paused again, possibly weighing up what kind of woman he was dealing with. ‘There was no question of my doing so,’ he went on.

‘But why?’ I said, still not understanding.

‘Because what was the point?’ he said. ‘It’s not as if it was ever going to change anything, was it?’ Another pause. I waited. He eventually spoke again. ‘I think the feeling was – still is – that we should let sleeping dogs in that department lie. After all, as I say – and I think the feeling has always been this, to be honest – that it’s not as if we can help Keeley by going back over any of this, is it? And to lay it bare to her that she herself was the reason … well, that’s only going to make her feel even worse about herself, isn’t it? Assuming that’s even possible …’

He let it hang. And I stood there and weighed things up too. And thought back to two children we’d fostered before – the elder of which (in fact, both of which) had been similarly abused over several years. They too had been separated. To break the abuse cycle. To put it behind them. And, in that case, hand on heart, I realised I couldn’t argue. It had been the right decision. Perhaps it had been the right decision for Keeley too.

So I finally had my answer. And it settled things in my mind a bit more. Depressingly, it also put the phone sex into perspective. For a teen who, as a little girl, had been systematically abused by strange men, what she did on the phone for money must feel like water off a duck’s back. As if she was calling the shots. A kind of payback.

And Danny was right. I couldn’t change her past. Only help her with her future. It made me even more determined to see beyond the stroppy fifteen-year-old I was currently dealing with, and remember the frightened, abused ten-year-old beneath.
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