"my life was self-destructing day by day"
"When I was about 15, I was beaten up by a younger girl and feared going back to school because of bullying.
"Soon afterwards, I met a 20 year old boy who was in a gang. He had money, a car and he said that he was going to protect me. He said no one was going to touch me and that if I needed anything he would give it to me.
"Instead of going to school I began to just sit at his house with his friends smoking weed, becoming exposed to gang violence and becoming sexually active.
"My body and mind was breaking down. From the innocence that I had, my life was self-destructing day by day. He became so controlling, he had control of where I went, who I spoke to. Whatever he said, I did. He started hitting me but when he did, he would say sorry and bought me things to make it up to me.
"Two years later, I was getting punched so hard that one time I was knocked out.
"At 17, I fell pregnant and at this point I realised that I was scared, that I didn't want to be with him and I didn't want to raise a baby with him. I woke up to who was in my life.
"The midwife asked me who the father was and when I told them they knew who he was because he was under the Mental Health Act with bipolar. Social services came in and that's how I got out.
"A girl hoping to leave a gang will need a mentor or someone to talk to, to build up a relationship with someone she trusts. Young people are immature souls; if they have been broken in any way then they have to be fixed back.
"Housing was crucial because if I never got out of that area, even if I didn't see him, I would have seen his friends and the friends think they've got control over you. It can be a very dangerous situation when you're trying to get that person out of your life but I got my escape."
Carly told her story to the Centre for Social Justice.
if you need support leaving a gang, we're here
If you're experiencing violence or want to leave a gang, we can help. We can support you with getting help from social services and looking at other ways to feel safe.
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- we're not easily shocked by what you tell us
- you don't have to go into detail if you don't want to
- we'll never judge you
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- we'll listen and support you in making the situation better.