In 2006 Steven Hoskin was tragically tortured and killed by a group of people he believed to be his friends. After enduring months of mental and physical abuse, Hoskin was taken to a bridge and forced to hang on to the railings by his fingertips. His ‘friends’ then stamped on his hands until he was forced to drop 100ft to his death.
This type of crime, dubbed ‘mate crime’, is worryingly common and largely under-reported in this country. Rod Landman of the Association for Real Change (ARC UK) campaign believes 99.9% of mate crime cases are left unreported.
Landman is the regional development officer for ARC UK, which launched its 2009 Safety Net campaign to support victims of mate crime. Two years ago Landman met a group of young people with Asperger’s who spoke of their ‘Tuesday friends’ – people who would turn up on Tuesdays (the day benefits are paid into their accounts) to assist them at cashpoints and then take them to a pub to help spend their money. They would then disappear all week until the following Tuesday, when they would turn up and do the same again.
More often than not, victims do not understand that they are being exploited. Many live alone in isolation and find it difficult to make friends. Therefore, when a person appears to want to help them and spend time with them, they gladly take up the offer.
Often, they are too scared to tell anyone once the abuse begins. The ARC UK believes more people need to be made aware of the horrifying ways abusers exploit vulnerable members of our communities.
With the rise of social media, exploitation and abuse are becoming easier to carry out. There have been cases of people with learning disabilities sending money to ‘friends’ they meet on the Internet, or stripping off and performing sexual acts on webcams to strangers.
The funding for the Safety Net campaign, which provides support to people with learning disabilities, has unfortunately come to an end, raising fears that the number of vulnerable people being abused across the country will rise.
Some counsellors specialise in issues of abuse. To find out more, please head to our Abuse page.
View and comment on the original BBC News article.