I am a non-fiction addict, like a moth to a flame. This being said, I could not say no to the offer of reviewing the harrowing memoir that is Prey that is written by Cassie Pike with Katy Weitz and was published by John Blake Publishing (imprint of Bonnier) on the 16th of May 2019 in paperback. Grab yourself a copy here.
Cassie was only thirteen when her mother died of a degenerative illness, leaving her vulnerable to sexual predators in the Halifax area who had been grooming her since the age of eleven. She fell through the net of the care system and reached out for friendship, only to be consumed by an escalating spiral of abuse.
This harrowing and truly shocking story captures in vivid detail how gangs of men were able to ply a child with drink and drugs, then rape her and pass her around their associates with no one seemingly able to step in and prevent it. Cassie was lost in a world of appalling degradation for years before a local policeman and caring social worker became instrumental in helping her to escape and rebuild her life. In 2016, the largest case of child sexual exploitation ever brought to trial at that time in the UK resulted in the conviction of 17 men. Since Cassie’s abusers were jailed, child safeguarding policies have improved so that vulnerable children like Cassie should never again fall through the net and become prey.
That’s right folks, Cassie Pike was 11 years old when the sexual grooming begun. The men involved saw that Cassie was a misunderstood girl who lived a life that was too much for an eleven year old. Cassie’s mother was suffering from Huntington’s where she slowly faded away, leaving Cassie alone in a chaotic environment with two adult siblings living their own lives and a useless, aggressive, addict of a father. My heart ached for the hell that Cassie experienced. With no-one to turn to, she missile into a world of drink, drugs and sexually exploited.
Reading Prey was a rollercoaster of emotions, the one that sticks with me is raging anger. Angry at Cassie’s father who neglected her and therefore pushed her into a life of trying to find that place in the world where she ‘fitted’, I was angry at the men who saw a small vulnerable girl and took advantage of her. Most of all I was angry and disgusted at the social services / police for not stepping in and removing Cassie from this toxic environment sooner, even though they were told about the beatings, her blasé attitude towards the rapes – to her these were normal, no-one told her any different!
From the multiple chapters within the book, Cassie’s childlike naivety is noticeable. At one point, after telling her older sister that she was going out with an older guy to smoke and chill, her sister told her to be careful – she didn’t understand what this meant at the time. Although Cassie went to some dark places, I have to applaud her unbelievable bravery to get out of that situation, how her strength put some of the men away and that drive saved god knows how many girls. Cassie Pike is the embodiment of courage. She is a survivor.
Prey is written in a way similar to fiction, without any over complication of facts – after all this is Cassie’s life events, it’s raw, hard hitting and difficult to swallow but she’s not only telling her story. Cassie has used this platform to inform the readers about sexual child grooming; the signs and indications, what grooming is, why children don’t disclose grooming behaviour etc. I have included a link here.
A sobering read!