Former lesbian gang leader watched ‘friends die before eyes’ in all-girl gang
A former gang member has spoken about watching her friends die before her eyes when she was a teenage leader of a violent all-girl crime gang.
Naomi Whittaker, who is now a youth worker helping young people with addiction problems, was first sentenced for grievous bodily harm at the age of fourteen.
Struggling with telling her mum about her sexuality, and with a father who left the house when she was two when suffering from a long-term drug addiction, Whittaker turned to the gang life when she was bullied at school, she told BBC Woman’s Hour.
“I would really know how to humiliate or wind people up,” she said. “My reputation for fighting was well-known. I loved conflict for a long time.”
By the time she was 14, Whittaker had been arrested for actual bodily harm (ABH) and grievous bodily harm (GBH).
“I was savage,” she said.
“I’ve seen friends murdered, people injured. Mass brawls. Stabbings. Shoot-outs happening in front of me.
“You have people who follow you – you have a crew. You go to any lengths – robbery, kicking in people’s front doors.”
As a young gay woman, Whittaker struggled to speak to her mum about her sexuality, as she was from a traditional Christian upbringing in which LGBT people are not necessarily accepted.
“My mum is a wonderful woman, but she’s old-school and she was bringing quite a lot of her traditional Caribbean ways, and I didn’t feel like I belonged in that setting for many years because of my sexuality.
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“For many years I didn’t feel listened to.”
Known as a “10-star general”, Whittaker said her life got a lot worse before it got better.
“Beating people up, weapons, guns, humiliation – making a boy or girl walk down the street naked. It got worse before I calmed down,” she said.
Gang violence has been reported to be on the rise as thousands of children are being exploited by gangs as drugs mules.
The National Crime Agency has said that gangs are using children as young as twelve years old to peddle drugs in rural areas, reports The Independent.