Girls In Gangs

Young girls are increasingly being sucked into the macho and male-dominated world of gangs, but what is gang life really like from a female perspective?

As well as the general anxieties of gang life like fearing the police and attacks from enemy gangs there’s the added pressure of having to fit in with male gang members. At best this means girls struggle to prove themselves by doing the dirty work for the boys, and at worst this can drive girls to dangerous extremes.

Plus, because there are no rules in gang world, being a girl doesn’t stop them from being a target, and a relatively easy one at that.

Ex-gang member Nequela Whittaker, who features in episode 3 and who now runs a mentoring programme for young girls trying to escape gang life, helped us with the content of this article.

How do girls get into gangs?

Usually girls enter gang life when they’re still at school and often they get looped in by boyfriends who are already in gangs. Sometimes they might just fall into the wrong friendship groups.

What are girls’ roles in gangs?

Girls are very useful to male gang members, which is why many get exploited. Although there’s not much opportunity to climb the ranks, girls often have to prove themselves by doing a lot of the risky dirty work that nobody else wants to do. Girls often seem less suspicious to the authorities so are given tasks like hiding weapons, disposing of evidence and hiding drugs in their homes.

They’re also useful for selling drugs as they don’t get stopped in their cars as much by police. Some gang girls nowadays start off selling drugs for male members but end up running their own business.

Girls have to look and behave in a masculine way because, no matter how deep into gang life girls get, behaving like their male counterparts is still the only way to win respect.

What are the dangers?

Girls can be seen as easy targets by opposing gang members so their safety is very much at risk. Whether they’re targeted by gangs who want to steal their drugs or for inter-gang revenge, it’s a dangerous life to lead.

Many girls in gangs take part in extreme violence, using dangerous weapons and attacking individual girls from other gangs on mass. Violence is normalised and, in a world where girls feel especially vulnerable to attack, the weapons they’re using are getting more dangerous and their attacks more vicious.

But it’s not just rival gangs – there’s danger much closer to home. Young girls are especially vulnerable to pressures from gang members who they look up to and admire, especially when the pressure is coming from a boyfriend. Their older gang ‘boyfriend’ can become their pimp, making them prostitute themselves and then taking the money, as we see in Cherelle’s storyline.

Girls are often manipulated into having sex with male gang members. Often, if something goes wrong, they may be told they have to have sex with someone as a result. They can be mislead into thinking it’s only one person they have to have sex with and lead somewhere, only to discover that there are more boys ready and waiting to join in. There are also specific roles within gangs for girls who recruit other girls to have sex with gang members.

Giving into this kind of pressure is often easier than putting up a fight and the danger is that this pattern of behaviour becomes normalised. These girls may feel not only that they have no other option, but may blame themselves for getting involved in the first place (which is all part of the manipulation). This kind of sexual violation is unfortunately commonplace.

I’m a girl in a gang who wants to get out… what can I do?

While gang life is generally traumatic in the long-run, girls get an especially sour deal and are often completely exploited. Sometimes it’s hard to see that you’re being exploited when you’re so used to being treated in a certain way and it’s become normalised, but it’s important to recognise that you’re worth more than what you’re getting – whether that’s being put in scary situations to cover other peoples’ tracks or used for sex.

Childline and The Mix have great helplines and resources if you feel you need to talk to someone and St Giles Trust and Gangsline run great services to support gang members who want to get out.

If you’re afraid you’re being sexually exploited, NSPCC has a great information page and resources specifically about sexual exploitation. They also run a special service for girls between 11-19 who are at risk of being or have been sexually exploited – click here for more information.

There are also books written by former gang members that may help. Try Sour: My Story by Tracey Miller and “Street Girl” by Nequela Whittaker, which follows Nequela’s personal story as an ex-gang member from Brixton.

 

St Giles Trust 

Gangsline 

More about the programme

Inside the Gang – ep 2: More about the programme

The aim of the programme was to delve deeper into London’s gang world than we’ve ever been before – and we wanted to do it from an insiders’ perspective.

How did we contact gang members?

Through underground ‘fixers’ we were able to get in touch with both London gang members and suppliers of gang weapons who otherwise would have been unapproachable.

Gang members were asked through the fixers if they would feel comfortable appearing on Inside The Gang and filming the action themselves. If they came back to us and agreed to take part, they were all given the opportunity to decide whether or not they’d want to cover their faces and hide their identities or not. Some members, ex-gang members in particular, chose not to hide their identities, but all were given time to consider the options before they made their decision.

What did we discover?

We approached lots of different gang members for filming and what we overwhelmingly saw was the diversity of gang life.

Gangs were made up of diverse ages (many ‘olders’ were still involved in gang life as well as kids as young as 13), ethnicities (we met white, Asian, mixed race and black gang members) and, as we’ll examine more closely in the third episode, there are many women and girls involved in gang life too.

We also discovered that gang operations have expanded far further out of the city than we’d expected, as gang drug dealers are increasingly finding quiet, affluent areas in the country with a high demand for class A drugs and less supplier competition.

What now?

Inside The Gang is a documentary exploring the very real issues presented by London gang life. As broadcasters we wanted to take a non-judgemental stance and simply present the facts to our viewers. By doing this we hoped to raise awareness about the, often dire, situations gang members find themselves in and about what really goes on behind closed doors.

Click here if you’re a gang member and you want to know more about leaving your gang and who you can contact if you need support or someone to talk to.

Useful sites:

St Giles Trust

Childline

Gangsline

The Mix

Crimestoppers

Inside The Gang: Getting Out

Gangs operate in most of London’s inner cities dealing drugs, thieving and committing acts of extreme violence. The drive to gain respect among members means that inter-gang violence is ruthless, revenge escalates quickly, and young people are dying on the streets.

There are many reasons why teenagers join gangs. Sometimes it’s as simple as moving to a postcode that is dominated by gang culture, sometimes family members or friends pull them in, and often older gang members are on the lookout for young people they can initiate into their gang, to raise their own status and rise up the ranks.

Gang life can seem very glamorous – with opportunities to get rich quick – but there is much more to it than meets the eye. Along with the criminal life gang members lead comes the risk of not only going to prison or getting seriously hurt, but developing serious mental health problems.

I’m in a gang – why should I leave?

Though it may not seem like it at the beginning, there are always consequences to being in a gang:

1) Mental health problems

Being involved in gang activity is stressful and frightening, and witnessing extreme violence can cause emotional trauma. Emotional trauma impacts on your mental health not only as traumatic events happen, but for a long time afterwards.

Gang members will often develop mental health problems due to emotional trauma, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Take ‘Gripper” in part 1 of Into The Gang. He witnessed his friend’s death, and described how he was experiencing constant nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety, reliving the traumatic event every single day. ‘Red Rum’ described how he couldn’t sleep, despite smoking weed all through the night to try and relax. These are all symptoms of PTSD.

Traumatic events can also cause psychosis, where you experience hallucinations and delusions. Bad psychotic episodes can land you in hospital and mental health institutions.

It’s important to be aware that it’s not just emotional trauma that can give you mental health problems. If you’re using drugs frequently you may be putting your mental health at risk. Smoking weed over a long period of time, for example, is linked to serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia. Click here for more info on what drug misuse can do to your brain.

Your mental health is important and mental health problems can’t be fixed overnight – if you develop a mental health problem due to the gang culture you’re living in it could take years for you to feel in control of your life again.

2) Prison

If you get caught doing gang crimes you’ll go to prison. Prison is not something to be taken lightly – you’ll waste years of your life behind bars.

It’s also a mistake to think you’ll be escaping the gang culture in prison. What if you’re put in the same cell as an opposing gang member? Prison is full of very dangerous criminals that you wouldn’t want to mess with and new inmates can get picked on. But in prison, unlike on the streets, there is nowhere to run.

3) Death

The reality is that gang members die all the time. Violence escalates quickly and for beating someone up you might get shot – revenge is always carried out and there are no rules on the street.

Gang life is a dangerous world where it’s eat or be eaten so while you’re involved in a gang, your life is in real danger. You could get yourself killed.

 

How do I leave?

It’s much easier to get into a gang than it is to leave. But, while leaving can be scary and dangerous, there is a way out and there are people and organisations out there who want to help you.

1) Make the decision – and stick to it

It’s important that you 100% make your mind up before starting the process. It may be a difficult journey, but it will be worth it in the end.

2) Contact an organisation who deals with getting gang members out

Gangsline is an organisation that’s run by ex-gang members who know the ropes. If you call them up on their confidential helpline number they can help you with your individual case and set you up on their mentoring programme.

St Giles Trust is another good organisation to get in contact with but only if you’re serious about leaving your gang. They can offer you one-to-one mentoring and can help you set up your new life away from gang crime.

I’m in a gang and I need to talk, who can I call?

If you’re feeling anxious and unhappy it’s important to talk your feelings through. When you’re in a gang it’s hard to find people you can really talk to and trust.

While organisations like Gangsline and St Giles Trust are great for helping you to leave your gang, their helplines aren’t supposed to be used for day-to-day counselling.

Call Childline’s confidential helpline or contact The Mix via phone or online chat to talk to professionals who know about mental health and can help you work through things that are worrying you.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this programme, the following websites may be able to help.

Helpful sites:

Crimestoppers

St Giles Trust

Childline

Gangsline

The Mix

Premiership Rugby is Coming to Channel 5

Live Premiership Rugby to air on terrestrial TV for first time

Premiership Rugby matches will be shown live on terrestrial television for the first time in the competition’s history, as Premiership Rugby and Channel 5 today confirm a landmark four-year deal.

The agreement will see us broadcast five live games each season from 2017-18, as well as show a highlights programme every Sunday night, covering Premiership Rugby, Anglo-Welsh Cup and Premiership Rugby 7s.

This new deal for club rugby adds to our growing sports portfolio, which includes live boxing and motor sports (including live Formula E Racing), weekly football highlights from across the EFL, as well as its acclaimed cricket highlights package showcasing all England home games. The channel also demonstrated its commitment to live sport recently by providing a terrestrial home for live cricket (also simulcast with BT Sport) for the first time in over a decade, earlier this year, when it broadcast five T20 fixtures from the Australian Big Bash League.

We’ll also be showing a weekly highlights programme. The show will feature all the action from around the grounds, and is set to be fronted by recognised names, as well as featuring the insights of former and current players.