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Diane Abbott MP
The MP and the gangster's moll
Valley Fontaine, BBC London
Hackney's Diane Abbott tells of a revealing meeting with the girlfriend of a local gang member, who gives a shocking insight into the world of gangs
In her column in an overseas newspaper, Diane Abbott MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, told of gang violence on London's streets.
Ms Abbott wrote in the publication called, The Jamaican Observer on 19th September 2008: "This week I had an intriguing conversation with a young woman who shone a light for me into the world of gangs".
The MP told of the gang and gun violence that many young people are now facing, but spoke in particular about the experience of a Hackney gang members girlfriend.
Here are extracts of what she said:
"The young woman I spoke with was light-skinned, attractive and had recently completed a university degree. I will call her Michelle. Michelle had spent many years as the girlfriend of a leading gang member in my own district of Hackney in East London. Michelle herself lived in a respectable area a few miles from the boundaries of my inner-city constituency.
"The gang leader she fell in love with happened to move in next door, but his gang was a leading one in Hackney and that was his stomping ground. She described how protective he was towards her. He would send her home when episodes of extreme violence were about to happen. He largely kept her out of his gang's territorial zone. He limited the extent to which he involved her in actual crimes.
"Speaking softly, Michelle talked about the sense of status and material benefits that she derived from the relationship. She spoke openly about how she would demand increasingly expensive designer goods; compare him unfavourably with other gang leaders to encourage him to commit more acts of criminality and how she would goad him on to acts of violence. She also explained how the acts of extreme violence associated with gang members (rapes, mutilations, unprovoked attacks on the elderly) actually enhanced their attraction to girls. She explained that, the colder and more heartless the girls knew the gang members to be, the more powerful the girls would feel as the only people to whom the boys revealed their "softer" side. Michelle even explained that she felt a little guilty because, whilst she had been able to move on from the gang world and go to college, her lover was now in prison.
"Interestingly, she explained that girls in gangs divided into quite separate groups. There were girls like her who were the girlfriends of gang leaders and had a measure of protection and respect. There were girls who hung around gangs, frequently because they had a drug habit, and who would have sex with anybody. There were "equal opportunity" gangs where girls were members with the same status as boys and who took a full part in all the violence and criminality. And then there were all-girl gangs who rivaled the men for violence and brutality.
"Michelle described a world in which young gang members thought nothing of stabbing a pregnant woman in the stomach in an unprovoked attack just to show how "cold" they could be. She explained how some mothers were terrified to report their sons and their friends to the police because they knew young gang members would find them and submit them to brutal gang rape.
"It was a sobering conversation. You are left wondering how some of our communities have spiraled down to this level".
last updated: 24/10/2008 at 12:47