Jake's Story

A parent’s view: My child with Downs’ Syndrome

I now know that many people with learning disabilities have lots of so called ‘friends’ online.

The trouble is that they tend to be more vulnerable online than others because they're very trusting and they just can’t tell the difference between a real friend and someone who’s trying to take advantage of them.

But I found that out all too late for Jake.

He was lovely. He has Downs’ Syndrome but always managed really well. He was so friendly and outgoing, and enjoyed everyone’s company. That’s all changed now.

It started off with what I now know as ‘mate crime’. He went on Facebook and lots of people then tried to be his friend. He was getting so much attention that he was really pleased – but I just thought he was just having a good time playing games.

It’s all recently come out.

His ‘friends’ starting asking him for money and guilting him into doing it, Jake says that they were really nice about it - saying things like ‘’The money will be used for other people with learning disabilities that aren’t so lucky.’’

Then it got worse. I didn’t know that this friend was coming round on the day he got his pocket money and insisting they go to the pub – he’s only 15! Then sometimes they’d go out for an hour and Jake would pay them £20 petrol money for a 5 minute drive.

He then said that he’d gone to a party and that he’d had sex with someone because he didn’t have enough petrol money. He said that he hadn’t told me because we’d stop them being together.

I didn’t really notice that he was losing a bit of weight and that he was a bit bruised because he can be a bit clumsy. He was giving away his things towards the end…..

I was distraught. It was right under my nose and it all started online.

We thought that this may be hate crime, so we spoke to the Police. I wish the professionals that we work with everyday knew a bit more about exploitation - I think they just didn’t think it could happen to someone like Jake.

Could you help Jake? Download the 'Friend or Fake' easy read booklet


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