Dani's story

Dani’s story

YMCA DownsLink Group Dani's Story

At 14 life for Dani was already very chaotic and unstable. She was referred to YMCA DownsLink Group’s, YMCA WiSE service which works with vulnerable young people who are suspected of being at risk from sexual or criminal exploitation. Her YMCA Wise project worker was able to give her a different perspective on life and enabled her to make some wise decisions of her own.

Dani tells her story in her own words.

“My name* is Dani, I am 14 years old. About two years ago I was taken away from my home because of my parents’ problems with drugs and alcohol. Since then I have been living with different foster carers and I’ve been moving around a lot. My brother and sister also went to live in different foster homes. I hate not being able to live in my house with my brother and sister, it can be really tough at times.

When I was younger I had a lot of home troubles. There always seemed to be lots of arguments and shouting and screaming. Sometimes I would leave home and go and hang out on the streets just to get away from the troubles. I was attending school but not very often. I never really knew anyone my own age because school didn’t interest me and I didn’t have friends there. I’d always been friendly with older people, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.

Then when I was 13 I met this older guy who seemed to like me. He starting giving me loads of attention, always telling me I was beautiful, intelligent and sexy. I was kind of pressured into the relationship with him… yeah I guess I was forced into it. Soon he became very manipulative and abusive wanted to start having a sexual relationship with me. I wasn’t so sure but I didn’t feel that I could say no. I had become scared of him and was afraid of what could happen to me. The relationship made me feel very horrible, confused and unsure of what to do. I felt properly distressed and upset and I didn’t know how to sort out my situation.

That went on for a while and then I met my current boyfriend who is sixteen. He was always angry and started to hit me. My social worker picked up on it and asked me if I’d like to meet with someone from the YMCA WiSE Project for a chat. I agreed and met Helen (YMCA WiSE Project Worker) at my school the next day. It was quite a relaxed meeting, we had a cup of tea and a really nice chat and we decided to continue with the sessions.

During our sessions we would talk about what happened in the previous week, how things were going at home or if there were any relationships that I was unsure about between family, friends or even love relationships. There was a time when my boyfriend and I had an argument and I was unsure who was in the wrong. Helen gave me support and reassured me that things would be okay. She helped me to find a way through my problems. She helped me to think of different scenarios of how we were both feeling and of ways to talk to him.

In the end I had a discussion with him and we ended up coming to the end of all the troubles and being okay. He is trying much harder to manage his anger since then. To be honest it was a relief to talk to somebody outside of my family about my relationship troubles.

Another time my sister was really unhappy and wanted to run away from her foster home. She asked me for advice and I spoke to Helen about it. She talked me through what could happen if my sister decided to run away. Helen talked to me about the different options of running away or going home and talking about her feelings with the family. We discussed what would be the best path for her. We both decided that she would have a better outcome if she went home to sort things out. So I advised my sister to do that and everything turned out for the better.

Helen has also helped me recently with a situation with my foster carer. He was having a bad time and we argued a lot. Helen helped me to think about how he might be feeling so that I could understand him better. After I started thinking like this I was able to change how I was being at home to make my foster carer’s life easier.

Helen has definitely helped me to see other people’s point of view and has helped me to understand about how family life is. Sometimes family life can be really complicated and hard.

Before I met Helen I was quite vulnerable – that’s the way you could put it – I was a vulnerable person. I wasn’t very confident and I was quite shy. I still didn’t understand much about the people around me and how people can disguise how they are. Back then people always wanted something from me and my life was an open book, I didn’t know how else to be. I was unsure about other people, such as types of boys. The YMCA WiSE project made me aware that some boys can be manipulative and can persuade you to do things that you don’t want to do. I’m starting to understand the type of boy that I can go for and I’m starting to feel more confident.

I’ve also come to some decisions of what paths I should take, especially when it comes to school. Last year, I was hardly ever at school but now I’m making more of an effort to be there fulltime. I’m just starting my GCSEs, I’ve caught up with all my work and I’m not behind any more. I’ve made new friendship groups. Everything is on track!

If one of my friends was having troubles with their relationship and asked me for advice, I’d ask them to think about their options. To think about the different paths of either staying with their partner or breaking up with them. I’d advise them to talk to their partner about these options and decide where each path could lead them, which would have the best outcomes and try and follow that path. If they were really unsure about their relationship and they wanted to get relationship building skills, I would also recommend some contact with YMCA WiSE.

I think the YMCA WiSE project should be offered to many people in schools so that they can also have the same chances that I have had.”

We wish Dani and others like her every success in their future relationships.

Read more about YMCA WiSE here.

*Name and photo have been changed to protect the identity of the young person

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