The Mother's Tale

by Albert Semple, 2006 (Part 1), 2021 (Parts 2-)

  1. When I was a girl and just thirteen years old
  2. I used to use chatrooms, the truth to be told,
  3. And most of my weekend and most of my nights
  4. I chatted for hours on internet sites.
  5. I chatted with people, some old and some young.
  6. I made many friends and we had quite good fun.
  7. And some would chat often, and some not so much,
  8. And some disappeared, while a few kept in touch.

  9. Then one guy befriended me, after a while,
  10. A guy called Enrique who came from Carlisle.
  11. We talked in the evenings and at the weekends.
  12. We talked about school, about study and friends.
  13. And I was quite flattered that he stayed in touch
  14. As boys didn't pay me attention that much.
  15. And as for the fact the he was twenty three,
  16. His age made him much more appealing to me.

  17. He always seemed eager to give me his time.
  18. He talked of his problems, I talked about mine.
  19. Like when a daft schoolboy had broken my heart
  20. Or waiting for puberty changes to start,
  21. Or when I had argued with one of my friends,
  22. Or when I was grounded for several weekends.
  23. He just understood me, he seemed really sweet,
  24. Then after a while he suggested we meet.

  25. I knew of the dangers before I set out,
  26. I knew that my mum would go mental and shout,
  27. But still, all the same, I was desperate to see
  28. This guy who paid so much attention to me.
  29. And so we agreed to meet up face-to-face
  30. Arranging to meet in a bright public place
  31. We'd meet at Buchanan Street concert hall door,
  32. At Donald D's statue at quarter to four.

  33. Arriving quite early, I sat down to wait,
  34. Then he arrived afterwards, ten minutes late.
  35. He looked a lot older than just twenty three,
  36. And not like the photo that he'd sent to me,
  37. But looks are not everything, so I've been told,
  38. And love doesn't care if you're young or you're old.
  39. So sharing his ciggies, beside me he sat,
  40. He put his arm round me and started to chat.

  41. A decade passed beyond the time Enrique knew me well
  42. No more was I a teenager, no more under his spell.
  43. At last I found the courage to report him for his crime,
  44. But worried there were others in the intervening time.

  45. I travelled on the underground to rest my tired feet
  46. Alighting at Cowcaddens, up the stairs, on to the street,
  47. In time for my appointment at a quarter after three
  48. To meet Detective Stevenson at Stewart Street CID.

  49. The officer was pleasant, said she'd done this all before.
  50. She took me to a room located on the second floor.
  51. The room was just an office, with a kettle to make tea.
  52. No tape machine or panic strips as seen on the TV.

  53. The telling of my story had me feeling rather sick.
  54. How could I be so stupid to have fallen for this trick,
  55. And ferried round in taxis to a dozen different men
  56. Who'd give me drugs and alcohol and pass me round again.

  57. I told her of abortions — two — before I was sixteen.
  58. I told her of the other girls at "parties" I had seen.
  59. She'd nod with recognition when I told her each address
  60. Enrique took me into and then told me to undress.

  61. I thought I was an adult, thought that I was so mature,
  62. And valued by these grown-ups, an incentive to endure
  63. The treatment and poor hygiene of those men along the way.
  64. Why else would I consent to be mistreated in that way?

  65. The officer reminded me consent was never there:
  66. A thirteen year old teenager is not so self-aware.
  67. But I cannot help judging teenage-me with grown-up eyes,
  68. With adult sensibilities, aware of Ricky's lies.

  69. But in the nineteen-nineties acts of grooming were not seen,
  70. And mums were less protective of their daughters at thirteen.
  71. When BBC celebrities could do just as they please,
  72. Were even granted knighthoods for their work with charities.

  73. Two years then passed before I heard the Fiscal's plan progress
  74. (I almost gave up hope that I would see those men confess)
  75. Contacted by the Fiscal's clerk to say they had a date
  76. Proposing to plead guilty: an acceptance of their fate.

  77. The High Court at the Saltmarket, across from Glasgow Green,
  78. Is where the men pled guilty to offences so obscene,
  79. And I was in attendance, to observe them give their plea,
  80. With seven other victims in the public gallery.

  81. Not all the perpetrators sat within the dock that day
  82. As some had fled the country, some had died along the way.
  83. And even though their guilty pleas were outwardly a win
  84. Not all of the offences were included there within:

  85. As part of legal bargaining some charges were dismissed,
  86. So victims twelve to twenty were excluded from the list.
  87. They wouldn't get their hearing, all those crimes were set aside,
  88. And silencing those cases meant their justice was denied.

  89. I guess I should be grateful to be in the lucky crowd:
  90. Our narratives and impact statements, both were read aloud.
  91. The men gave mitigations seeking mercy from the court,
  92. Admitting that it happened, as it said in my report.

  93. No mercy was forthcoming from the Sheriff in his gown,
  94. And every last defendant there was promptly sent straight down.
  95. Her majesty's discretion meaning when they are released
  96. That most would be old men by then, and some would be deceased.

  97. A decade has passed since they sentenced those men
  98. And some are released, back in Glasgow again.
  99. While I have moved on (I'm a mother of three)
  100. I'll always remember what happened to me.
  101. I still blame myself, in a way, for their crime:
  102. Feel guilt that I didn't speak up at the time.
  103. I wonder how many girls came after me,
  104. Far more than the number the Sheriff did see.

  105. If speaking up sooner could ever prevent
  106. Those men from fulfilling their wicked intent,
  107. Upon their next victims who after me came,
  108. Then that's why I burden myself with the blame.
  109. Despite all the counselling saying I'm wrong
  110. To feel the remorse I've endured for so long,
  111. I cannot help speculate, could I have saved
  112. The latter survivors from being depraved.

  113. But I've found a way that I can compensate
  114. For taking my time, seeking justice too late.
  115. I've joined with a paedophile punishment crew,
  116. Protecting our children, and here's what we do:
  117. We hang around chatrooms, pretending to be
  118. A girl with a profile for others to see
  119. We make it quite clear that we're under sixteen
  120. With nothing suggestive and nothing obscene.

  121. We wait for a contact from curious guys
  122. Who, viewing our profile with lecherous eyes,
  123. Converse with our character, innocently
  124. At least to begin with, then gradually,
  125. They guide the discussion to intimate stuff.
  126. We always remind them we're not old enough,
  127. But rarely that stops them pursuing their aim
  128. With our little Debbie (our character's name).

  129. They'll ask her for photos, they'll try to compel
  130. Poor Debbie to make them revealing as well,
  131. But we never send them a photograph through,
  132. It doesn't deter them, so here's what they do:
  133. They'll ask that we meet near some seedy hotel
  134. A down-market guest house or budget motel,
  135. Reluctantly Debbie agrees that she'll meet
  136. A public location, a bench in the street.

  137. And I'll pose as Debbie, because I'm quite small
  138. My team round the corner, or behind a wall
  139. And on his arrival, approaching the place
  140. My team will leap out, and will capture his face,
  141. Recording the footage, we'll quiz his intent,
  142. We'll read back his messages, ask what he meant,
  143. When he was describing how he would deflower
  144. Our Debbie, but now he finds we hold the power.

  145. We gather the evidence of his deceit
  146. Including the video out on the street
  147. Where he showed his face to my camera guy,
  148. He realised our trap and became rather shy.
  149. Usernames, chat logs and even IPs,
  150. The police get the lot to do with as they please.
  151. So far we've caught eight of these men in this way
  152. With four in the prison, four more on the way.

  153. Thirteen year old children should not be exposed
  154. To men with malicious intentions as those,
  155. So we lay our honey trap, try to deflect
  156. Attention from real children, whom we protect.
  157. And so I atone for the guilt that I know
  158. For not speaking up all those decades ago,
  159. Do my little bit to keep children from harm
  160. From men who befriend them with internet charm.

by Albert Semple
160 lines over 27 stanzas.