“I was 16 when a friend introduced me to her church youth group. The first time I went, I met the youth leader, Adam. As I got more involved in the group, transport started to become an issue for me and Adam offered to give me lifts.
“Quite early on, Adam and I began texting. When he suggested we hang out outside of the group I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was probably common for youth workers to want to spend time with young people.
“I didn’t have a lot of friends so I felt like I’d made a close friend in Adam. He was paying me attention and I enjoyed his company, it felt like he was really looking out for me.
“Then, Adam started to encourage me to hang out with him at his house. He started telling me that we had a special friendship.
“It was gradual and quite innocent to start with, but I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. Adam started sitting closer to me on the sofa, trailing his finger over mine – things I thought were strange but not big enough to react to at the time.
“Over time, Adam started to give me extended hugs and kiss my face. He’d tell me I was his best mate and what we had was special. He said it was normal to do these things, even biblical; reading me passages from the Bible.
“As things continued I told him I wasn’t comfortable with what he was doing. He didn’t listen and instead ramped things up by kissing me on the lips. The kissing on the lips then became more regular and I felt helpless to tell anybody about what was happening.
“When I told Adam I wasn’t gay – that I liked girls and wanted him to stop – he’d turn things around by telling me I must want this, because I’d instigated it. He’d threaten to take me off the preaching rota or stop giving me lifts. He made me feel as if I’d be ostracised from the group if I put a stop to things and told me constantly that I wasn’t to tell anyone.
“Things escalated when he made us masturbate in the same room as each other. When we weren’t together, he’d text me telling me he thought about me while he was masturbating. He continued to pressure me, saying we were going to spend our lives together and that he wanted us to have sex.
“I was so confused but knew what he was doing was wrong. I wanted it to stop but part of me was afraid to speak out because I didn’t want to get him into trouble. Being unable to talk to anybody about what was happening was making me feel really depressed.
“A year and a half later, I moved away from the area to practice youth work in London. Because I was no longer in the situation I felt able to share what had happened with my new manager. Adam was removed from his post and isn’t involved in the youth group any more and I was fortunate enough to receive counselling, which has really helped me move on from what happened.
“The way the law stands currently, Adam can’t be legally prosecuted for what happened. This is because I was 16 at the time and he wasn’t viewed to be in a position of trust.
“I’d encourage other victims of grooming and sexual abuse to talk to someone, however bad it seems or however trapped you feel. Someone will be able to help you.”