Dales mum would cry, a lot. She was always sad, usually because of the ‘disagreements’ between her and his dad. It felt like they were shouting at each other – all the time. He wondered if perhaps the bruises on his mother’s arms and face were making her cry.
One day Dale found the courage to tell his schoolteacher about what he was seeing at home and how sad it made him feel. But he was happy to see a social worker visit the home to help his mum and dad. No one spoke to Dale, but he didn’t mind – he thought it would help everyone to be happy again.
When the social workers left, Dales’ dad became very angry with him. He shouted at him. Much like he did at his mum and told him never to share ‘family business’ with anyone. The shouting continued at home only now, Dale received bruises too. Dale couldn’t understand why his siblings didn’t, his life at home was now more difficult than ever.
The physical abuse Dale suffered at home continued into his teenage years, he never spoke to anyone again about ‘family business’. He knew that it only made things worse.
Then one day, Dale was approached by a group of boys roughly the same age as him. Offering a helping hand of support as he crossed the suburbs of where he lived. There were gangs who might try to hurt him. He didn’t want any more hurt – Dale had enough of that at home. Not believing his luck, he gladly took the offer of a little protection – Dale had never had that before. Surely this is what family should be like?
In return for the security and protection, his parents had never provided. Dale would do a few favours for the lads. Hiding a few drugs here and there and sometimes he was given enough responsibility to sell it. It felt like teamwork, a proper family.
As time passed Dale became respected. His loyalty rewarded with greater responsibility. He wanted to share this with other kids who were just like him when he was younger. He could help them too.
He introduced other kids to the gang, they would do a few favours – just like he did. Things like, looking after money and drugs, sharing their bank account ‘Deets’ so money from the drugs could be moved around.
By the time Dale was 18, he was a senior gang member. Dale’s responsibility to his ‘family’ started to become more serious. Arranging ‘hit’s on rival gangs, managing the network of younger kids who would be selling drugs all over the country for them. All he had to do was ring them and be a little aggressive – like his dad was, and they would do whatever he wanted. He knew that fear would keep people in line. The odd beating, threatening them with a gun, stabbing or even rape would keep them in line. After all they owed him, he saved them from families just like his.
Then one day his luck changed. A hit on a rival gang resulted in a killing. Dale was charged and convicted of Murder.
It wasn’t just Dale. He had let his members down too, 4 of his ‘family’ were arrested and convicted of murder. Dale served 9 years in prison. With a lot of time for reflection, he realised he had been a victim of exploitation as a child. Worse, he had exploited others too. The help he thought he was providing, was ruining others’ lives.
About Dale: Dale now works for an organisation which helps and supports individuals who are being exploited. Because he has lived through much of what they are going through, he has been able to make a positive impact on many of the individuals’ lives. Dale now does all he can to divert young people away exploitation. Dale has both mental and physical scars from his ordeal. Wounds that will never really heal.
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