Lauren Hughes, 19, from Northwich, Cheshire explains how her 'friend' pressured her into porn...
Every night was the same. Sitting alone in my bedroom watching telly.
It was June 2013. Two years earlier, I’d run away from home and been taken into a care home in Merseyside. I was miserable.
Then my phone beeped with a message from a strange number.
Who’s this? I replied.
Lee Lambert’s profile showed a smiley bloke with a shaved head.
He said he’d got my details through a group message we were both part of.
So we knew the same people. I told Lee I was 15 and in Liverpool.
I’m 21, I run a nightclub, he replied.
We started messaging daily.
Lee listened, cared.
I hate living here, I texted a month in.
Let’s go to the cinema, he replied.
He seemed nice enough…
Days later, a friend and I met Lee outside Liverpool Lime Street station.
Only, when we arrived, he looked older than 21.
‘Lauren,’ he smiled, hugging me.
‘H-hi,’ I spluttered nervously.
As he paid for our cinema tickets and popcorn, I relaxed.
It was like being out with an older brother.
After that, each week he’d spend hundreds buying me hair extensions, clothes, meals out.
A sliver of happiness in my bleak life.
Two months on, I had a row with the care-home staff.
‘I want to go out!’ I screamed.
‘Not right now,’ they insisted.
Angry, I texted Lee.
Come stop on my sofa, he messaged. I’ll send a taxi.
I stormed out before anyone could stop me.
An hour later, I walked into Lee’s third-floor flat.
The place was stark, just a few bits of furniture. No toothbrush, no dirty underwear! And why was the second bedroom door closed?
‘Don’t go in there,’ Lee instructed. ‘That’s where I keep paperwork for my nightclub.
With nowhere else to go, I lay awake on the sofa all night.
‘I’m going,’ I announced next morning.
‘No, I’ll look after you,’ Lee replied.
Something felt creepy.
‘It’s time I told you,’ he said.
‘I get girls to be in porn videos.’
Lee had been grooming me!
He held up his laptop. On the screen was a photo he’d secretly taken of me, uploaded to a porn website and Facebook page.
Advertising me for sex.
‘This is what you do now,’ he sneered.
My mind raced.
If I run, will he hurt me?
‘I don’t want to,’ I cried.
‘This is good for you,’ Lee hollered. ‘If you tell anybody, there’ll be massive consequences.’
Frozen with fear, I didn’t move.
A man arrived that afternoon.
‘You give him what he wants or there’ll be trouble,’ Lee growled.
What happened next was sickening. I lay on the bed, screaming and crying, while that man had sex with me.
Over the next hours, more men arrived and did unspeakable things that made me weep with pain and horror.
‘If you tell anybody, people will think you’re dirty, disgusting,’ Lee snarled afterwards. ‘You’ll get into trouble with the police.’
No fight left, I believed him.
Over the next three weeks, Lee let me pop back to the care home occasionally.
Too afraid to speak, I just stood in the shower, letting the water run over my aching body.
Brainwashed, I returned to the flat.
Sometimes, there’d be two men at once, sometimes they’d tie me up.
After three weeks, my throat burned with tonsillitis.
At 7am, I was lying in bed next to Lee when… BANG!
Four police officers barged in and dragged Lee to the floor, handcuffing him.
My heart thundered with fear. I’ll be arrested, too!
Wearing only my underwear, I threw on my coat, fled barefoot.
When I got outside, a female officer approached me.
‘You’re safe now,’ she said.
Relief flooded as police took me to hospital, where I was examined. Then I told them everything.
‘It’s not your fault,’ an officer said. ‘We’ve been monitoring him.’
The care home had reported my behaviour, too.
It turned out Lee had been jailed for two years in 2010 for a conviction involving indecent images of a young girl.
And he was 26, not 21.
Worse, that closed room contained recording equipment. He’d filmed every degrading moment to sell as porn.
In March 2014, at Liverpool Crown Court, Lee Lambert, 26, denied controlling prostitution for gain and keeping a brothel.
Jurors heard he’d advertised extreme sexual services with me for anything from £18 to £168.
Taking the stand, I looked at him, so smug, wearing sunglasses and a purple-lined blazer with the sleeves rolled up.
‘I-I was just 15,’ I testified, crying. ‘I was terrified.’
Lambert’s lawyer said he hadn’t known my age, that I’d got paid.
He was convicted in just 10 minutes, and received three years in prison and an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order, restricting his access to the Internet and banning contact with children.
Hardly a sentence at all.
I still suffer from anxiety and take antidepressants. I’m moving on, though. I’m about to start a new job in a diner and I’d like to work with children in care homes.
I want to warn young girls to be careful of strange men. I wish I had been