Blondy’s People … Dr Carlene Firmin
Blondy, from a young age, knew to avoid certain places, just like many young people do. We as adults may think we know those places… but do we…really?
I want you to think back to when you were younger. Was there a place you just knew not to go? A certain road, park, house maybe. A place that some of you talked about and knew was not safe.
“Don’t go by the bin sheds, people get mugged there” or “Don’t go to the girl’s toilets alone at break, the boys touch the girls up as they walk past”.
Young people know these places and so did we. But did we ever talk to an adult about it? About a “Place” we knew was unsafe?
Blondy had many places that people should avoid. That did not mean that she avoided them. On the local estate there was a youth club with a football pen attached. And one day in that pen a portacabin appeared. Some kind of work must have been taking place. Inside that portacabin different security guards would appear. Now… The young people on the estate soon established a relationship with some of these security guards and would use the portacabin to take drugs, sell drugs, chill out. It become an extension of the area for a while. There were a few of the guards that would not have it and would end up in rows with the young people so eventually, to keep the peace I guess, it was the same few guards.
Bad shit happened in that Cabin. I never saw it, but just knew that as a girl, you didn’t want to end up in there. Blondy would hear olders offering sex with younger girls for money to these guards. Blondy must have been about 12 at the time, and so she just avoided the cabin. And if for some reason the people she was mixing with went inside, she would sit outside on a bench. Making excuses as to why she didn’t want to go inside.
Sitting outside meant that Blondy saw things that others may not. As well as all the coming and goings she also saw that the security guards were becoming very relaxed around the olders .The security guards would dash their wallet and stuff in the desk by the door after buying what ever shit off the local kids. Blondy watched this happen a few times.
So Blondy and another had an idea. She would rob one of the guard’s wallets. Easy money. Right by the door. So, she came up with a plan. They would test it out first. Blondy and her friend waited until a security guard, who called himself Onday, was on duty. He liked the younger girls. Always flirting and shit with them. But also, always had a wallet full of money. Would give some on the girls a tenner for no reason….So… one of the girls went in the hut, just inside the entrance, and started speaking to him. It was disgusting, he was making sexual gestures instantly. And whilst this conversation took place, Blondy stepped in behind them, turned down the radio that was playing slowly and left. Then she called the other girl from outside (all casual like) and the other girl said goodbye and they both ran. They sat behind a wall giggling and laughing as they had just stolen this man’s radio and he had not realised. Laughing their heads off.
Did I mention they were drunk? Very very drunk. Both girls, aged 12, had bought Thunderbirds from the local off licence before they had done this.
I think we all know of “that offi”. The one where anyone could get served drink. The one…for us girls….as long as you put up with the nasty talk they would serve you anything…. yep. I wonder if anyone ever reported these people who sold children alcohol. I know none of the kids did. I also know that none of us told adults what was going on. In my offi, they would let girls sit out the back with them and you got free drink and kabab. I never went. Bad shit went down in there also. I also did not tell anyone because it felt like everyone knew. It didn’t feel like a secret. I mean…surely all the adults going in and out the shop could see what was going on….
They were drunk. 4 Thunderbirds each and now giggly and excited that they had nicked this man’s radio.
They went back.
The hut was now quiet. The friend whispered to Blondy “Why is it so quite” and then they both burst out laughing as the realised it was quite because they had nicked the radio. Took them about 10 minutes to recover. Laying on the grass, in the park, laughing so hard that a bit of wee most likely come out.
When they recovered (Although they kept giggling about it) they causally walked over to the hut and sat outside. Onday came out and looked at them. And smiled. Ha…thought Blondy…he has no clue. Idiot.
Onday, who was about 35, and massive said in his very strong Nigerian accent to the girls “come…. sit with me”. Blondy and her friends looked at each other. Blondy looked at the doorway and yes…. sitting on top of a filing cabinet was the wallet. She nodded at her pal and her pal rolled her eyes and mouthed “Be quick” and got up and stood in the doorway and started talking to Onday, who was now inside. The friend kept one foot outside the doorway and was now smiling and chatting.
Blondy suddenly felt very drunk. All the laughing and the drinking on this summer’s day hit hard. She had also been sitting in a room most of the day with people smoking god knows what around her. She got to her feet…swaying…” Right Blonde” she said to herself….” Grab it and run”. And she lent in and just grabbed the wallet. No sneaking…. No silent stealth moves like she had done with the radio. Just smash and grab and she shouted “Run”.
It’s almost comical…. aint it….
Blondy went to start running when the friend started screaming. Onday, he had hold of the friends arm and was shouting. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Blondy froze …but the friend…. she lent forward and bit as hard as she could on his hand and in shock I think he let go. And the girls ran. Stumbled. And he chased. They got a few feet away when he caught Blondy. By her hair. Long stupid Blond hair trailing out behind her. And he pulled her back to the hut. Quick. Boom. Like that. And he took her in the hut and closed the door.
And it was dark.
And she screamed. A lot.
Her pal…gangster as she was…she came back mate. She is kicking and screaming “Blondy” as loud as she can. She is booting this cabin and calling this man every name under the sun. And then she pulls on the door so hard it flings open.
Sunlight floods the cabin. The friend jumps in and kicks this man as hard as she can in the balls. I mean…. HARD.
Picture the scene if you will
Blondy…who was wearing a baggy t shirt and jeans…The jeans are half way down her legs and her t shirt has been pulled up over her head so she has her hands in the air above her, tangled in her t shirt , he has her held like a puppet with her hands above her and she cant see. The friend kicks him in the balls again and he does not flinch but says “Are you mad” to the pal. The girl…. she aint having it…she punches him square in the nose and he lets go.
Blondy falls to the floor and the pal is pulling her up, dragging her. They burst out of the cabin and the pal is screaming to run but Blondy, shaking and bleeding, she can’t pull her jeans up. She kind of runs but has to stop and undo her jeans, pulls them up and starts running whilst holding the jeans.
And he chases them. Blood pouring from his nose. And he is mad.
They run, they are almost at the main road, if they make it there then they will be safe…bare people up there. But Blondy can’t run as fast as her pal. Her legs are wet and sticky on the jeans, making it hard. And suddenly she is in the air. He has caught her. He has her around the waist and she is screaming. He is saying that she is coming to the cabin with him. That she will pay for trying to rob him. She throws herself forward and falls onto a car bonnet and reaches out for the only thing she can…the window screen wipers. And she holds on for dear life. He is now shouting. He punches her several times in the temple…. but she can firm that shit…. she holds on. She friend is here now, screaming and kicking the fuck out of him. Saying to let go. He punches her a few times. Suddenly, Blondy feels her jeans being ripped down again. She fells his hands once again all over her. Here. In broad daylight. His hands are too big for her small body and she starts screaming.
A man…he comes out of the flat next to all this happening.
Once again… picture if you will..
A 30ish year old man, in a security guard outfit….with two 12 year old girls…one screaming and kicking and punching him… the other girl, trousers pulled down and blood all over the gaff….what do you think he did…
Jumped the ground floor balcony he was standing on and help the girls?
Call the police?
Fight the man?
He shouted “Oi, let go of my wipers”
And then closed his door and curtains
Then this little old lady (I never saw her, but I was told) opened her window and shouted “Its OK, I have called the police, they are on their way…. We are sick of these lot causing trouble”
The “These lot” she was referring to was me. Maybe my pal. But mostly me.
And within seconds the police arrived. They must have been called from when he grabbed me by the car.
I had never been so glad to see police in all my life. It was short lived, trust me on that.
He…Onday…. let’s go of me and pushes me away. I am in the floor…. once gain…trousers round my ankles. I can hear him shouting and telling the police I am a thief (True) and that I am a prostitute (WHAT!). I can hear the words now “She was trying to sell herself to me”. My pal…. now all fucked up from being beaten by this man…Is crying her eyes out.
So…. The police arrive…. I’m on the floor, trousers down. My top so ripped and stretched that the neck of my t-shirt is pulled and ripped all the way down to just above my belly button and I am sitting there in my silly little training bra. I’m bleeding. Even if you just arrived on the scene you can see I am bleeding. My hair is matted from being dragged and having my head banged off the bonnet a few times (I don’t remember that but that’s what witnesses said to the police). I had a black eye on the way and marks on my face (Later turned out to be bite marks). My thigh’s, which were visible when the police arrived, had scratch marks, from his long unkempt nails, the full length of my inner thighs and some were bleeding. I had wet myself and the bottom of my t shirt, which I was now sitting on, was covered in a mixture of urine and blood.
Onday is shouting I am a thief and a prostitute
And my pal is standing a bit back from all of this this crying.
And most of the neighbours are now out (Where you guys a few minutes ago)
So…we have come this far. What do you think happens next…? Go on…. The police have now arrived…. what do you think happens…?
So, Two police walk over to Blondy and drag her to her feet by her wrists, she yelps in pain (on of those bad boys turns out to be fractured) and she is kind of just held up by them, which causes her trousers to now fall to her feet. She…in all of this…feels shame and tries to reach down to pull them up. One of them says something like “She is resisting” and she is pushed up against the police car, trousers round her ankles, arms behind her back. Onday is also being cuffed and becomes very violent. They start calling for more back up and stuff and start wrestling with him.
Whilst Blondy is against the police car being cuffed, in her own piss and blood, she turns her head and sees her pal who has been taking a step by step back by the second. She looks at Blondy and their eyes meet, and she nods. And she runs. The police clock her and start giving chase.
This girl …they aint catching her for shit. And Blondy takes a deep breath. Because she knows where the pal is going. She is going to get Blondys mum…
Shocked at all so far…your gonna love this bit then
They pull Blondy’s trousers up for her and the officer that does this, the police woman says loudly “She is so drunk she has pissed herself”. I still have no idea they are talking about me. I am sort of in a trance. They have my details. They know who I am without asking and so I am pushed into the back of the car and they drive me the very short distance home.
They have done this with me many times. But not like this. I have never been like this. I’m usually gobbing off or what ever as they take me back home. I am silent. I need to tell my mum what happened.
We pull up at my flat and its like some kind of film. Lots of people are out. I am taken out of the police car and uncuffed. I can hear shouting and screaming. I am in the car park and my flat is just out of sight. But I can here her….
“Get everyone, get them all, Someone has touched her”. That’s my mum…. from inside the flat…on our house phone. And I can hear her from here. She is calling people to come. I am frogmarched by these two police round the corner to my mum. My pal…. she is outside the flat, in the garden. She is crying …a lot. She sees me and screams “Mum Mum …. she is here” (She called my mum “Mum”) Then my pal is screaming at me “My brother is coming with others…they are gonna kill him”.
Well…I think that’s what she says but mostly I hear ringing…. lots of ringing….and I am very tired. And cold. I go to speak, and I hear a scream. Is that me. It doesn’t sound like me….and then it all happens of a sudden…
My mum comes bursting out the flat …wild. “Why the fuck did you cuff her” (my pal has told her everything). I can here shouting and she is coming towards us hard… my mum looks like she is gonna kill someone…
“Shit” I think …. I am in so much trouble. And I kind of put my hands up to stop the smack that could be coming…
But my mum has no interest in me. She has grabbed the women copper by the front of her uniform and pushed her up against the bin shed doors. I’m just standing there like …what …
My mum is screaming something about “Why is she being blamed,… Why do you keep blaming her” and its all kicking off. The other policeman, a little man called mike (I knew all their first names) he aint helping. Nope. He knows the kind of crazy my Mumma comes with….so he is straight on the radio for help and then…
“Mum…he is in the car park”
That’s my pal
“He is in the car park”
My mum lets go of the policewomen and I kid you not, kind of pole vaults over my garden fence back into the house.
Do you know what the police had done?
Are you ready?
They had heard PC Mikes call for assistance and the police that had Onday in the car…. they drive to my house to help them, With him in the car.
I ran to the edge of the car park where my pal is now sobbing and there he is. Sitting in the back of car. Staring at us. Big old smile on his face. He knew where I lived.
I will never ever forget that feeling. The two police in the front of his car getting out. Him in the back, some smile on his face. And my pal screaming at the police “How can you show him where she lives”.
I had to stop typing then as it made me feel anxious for a second. The same feeling as back then.
The two police in the car and the two police that bought me home are now rush over to each other, asking the women police officer (the one my mum had grabbed) if she was OK. And then it happened.
I can’t tell you exactly how…it’s a blur…but so many people had told the story after that it was like legend.
There was like…. a …. screech. I can’t tell you what the word was… (A swear word for sure) but it was primal. It made me judder…. not even jump… judder…it touched my sole. Everyone just looked shocked.
And my mum came walking…. calm …calm as can be…. she had a baseball bat that I kept under my bed and a fag in her mouth. Bare foot. In her Nike jogging bottoms and a t shirt.
I opened my mouth to speak…. but nothing. My pal grabbed my arm…and I always remember her saying very softly “Don’t’ watch Blonde”. But I did. My eyes would not look away.
The police…..they looked dup…saw all this and scattered. They didn’t run at her. They all backed away. Mike…who knew us well. Was saying my mums name over and over …screaming it.
My mum did not react at all. And with fag in hand she smashed nearly every window of that police car whist Onday screamed in the back seat. You could hear him screaming across the estate. Because he knew…and the police knew…in fact we all knew… that my mum intended to take his life. That is not being dramatic. She fully intended to take his life that night.
They jumped on her…. after window number 3…the police. Grabbed her and pinned her to the ground. Whilst I screamed and screamed. More police came. It all got messy. It was so bad for all of us. They wouldn’t let me go home for a while.
My mum was arrested (obviously)
And Onday was arrested.
I don’t know what his charge was or anything like that, but my mum went to court lots of times. A lot of it was hidden from me.
My mum had to fight to have him detained because he knew where I lived. They had brought him to the house and read my address out on the radio. He knew my full name. Whilst investigation went on it became clear that Onday was not supposed to be in this country and was deported. My mum had the date of when he was deported, and she drove to wherever it happens. I don’t know why.
My mum was charged.
Me… well I was questioned by lots of people. Lots of professionals asking for my account of the story over and over. Which I gave with no lies.
They concentrated on the fact that I was stealing and had “Seduced a man with intent to steal from him”. Was said in front of me at one point.
I was asked why I put myself in danger? Did you know it was dangerous…? You must of, you said you didn’t like to go in there?
Why was you drinking?
Did your mum give you the money for the drink?
Why did you run? Was it because you had already stolen from him before?
You have a history of stealing don’t you Kendra.
You always seem to find yourself in these kind of places Kendra
The police said that lots of residents reported they had seen what happened that day and that earlier in the day they had seen Blondy, drunk, being loud and aggressive, Residents said that she was a thief. That she was a troublemaker. That the man who grabbed her had shouted he had been robbed. Residents were sick of the kids on the estate.
Do you feel safe around your mum Kendra, the police report you flinched when she came out the flat?
Once we got to the “Do you feel safe with mum “questions I stopped talking. I never answered another question. I never gave a full account of the assault that took place. I knew this question too well…. This was the question that if you got wrong you get taken from mum for a bit. Nope. No thank you.
So, I said nothing. In fact,…. I have never really spoken about all the above in some time. Its not the worst thing that happened to me. But it is one that visits me often in my dreams and will …. No doubt …tonight.
I had all my injuries recorded. Well. Almost all of them. I have few of the photos up in the loft that my mum took.
2 black eyes, massive bruising and bite marks to the face, he had pulled out some of my hair (I could not brush my hair for weeks). Bites to my torso and shoulders. Bruising and “Chinese style burn marks” to my arms. 8 deep scratches made by adult finger marks to my things. Severe bruising along my lower back. Fractured wrist. Bruising to right breast.
They never examined me internally. Or asked. Or even suggested it.
They asked me twice if I had sex with him. I said no.
After it all came out, it was said that many people had reported the hut. That other parents had gone to the youth club and the local police that patrolled and said that inappropriate things took place there. Nothing was done.
After what happened to me, they continued to use the hut with other security guards. My mum (from what I can remember) wrote letters daily to the MPs in the area telling them what happened to me and asking for the hut to be taken away.
I remember one phone call she had, I walked in and she was saying “Yes, she had stolen from the hit…. but that’s not the point”.
Girls continued to go to the hut.
The hut got burned down a few weeks later…what a shame.
I had to have counselling after that. I become very aggressive, professionals noted, and Dr Roberts become my counsellor. I told him that I was worried Onday could come and find me one day because he knew where I lived. Dr Roberts never said he wouldn’t.
I carried a knife from that day. I had carried a knife before bit I always carried a knife from that day for a long time. And other weapons. And if any of the above sounds extreme to you…trust me on this…. I have seen professionals make much worse mistakes than this THIS YEAR.
Anyway… I could tell you other stories like that. About unsafe spaces that our young people are exposed to. I didn’t plan to tell this story; it just came out. It’s been a long time coming. I still get nightmare about it. The reason for that is because todays guest understands unsafe spaces and places.
May I introduce to you all Dr Carlene Firmin. We all should have a Shero/heroine and Carlene is mine. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain who she is, like…. we should all know lol. Since 2013 Carlene has developed and led the Contextual Safeguarding and peer-on-peer abuse research programmes at the University of Bedfordshire. She is the queen of contextual safeguarding. She gets gangs and exploitation and domestic abuse and sexual abuse and all the other grimy parts of society…she gets it. She takes it apart. She sees things that others should and then…this amazing woman….. She looks for solutions. She doesn’t just see It and go…yup …that’s grim. She creates programmes and interventions to make the change.
She is not looking to seek blame. She is not looking to point fingers She just wants the abuse of children to stop. She also sees that spaces and places that are not safe…through the eyes of a child. Not many people can do that.
Carlene is one of Blondy’s people …well…because she is epic. She is everything I want and need to be as a professional. She is THE game changer and as an adult, I use her work and understanding of contextual safeguarding to make children’s lives better. To save lives. If you have ever worked with me and think I am good at my job….part of it is because I have studied Carlene’s work and try to apply it where I can.
Carlene is one of Blondy’s people because she knows that I was not to blame for that day in the cabin. She doesn’t see the “Thief”. The drunk kid. The “Seducer” (Aged 12). She sees the pain and discomfort and would have wanted to make it better. I bet…if my mum had called her and told her about the cabin and what happened that day…Carlene would have supported my mum in what my mum was trying to do…get rid of a dangerous environment so no one had to suffer that again.
Dr Carlene Firmin…. Thank you for trying and thank you for seeing x
Carlene’s new book “Contextual safeguarding and child protection: Rewriting the rules” should be a mandatory for any one working with child protection arena. You can get your copy HERE
Follow Dr Carlene Firmin on Twitter HERE