Belfast woman on how drug gangs groomed her for life of crime before she turned things around – The Irish News

Belfast woman on how drug gangs groomed her for life of crime before she turned things around – The Irish News

A young woman from east Belfast has told how she turned her life around after becoming involved in criminal gangs and drug dealing at the age of 17.

Rebecca Marlow began abusing drugs as a teenager to cope with a range of mental health issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Running away from home and getting married at 17, Rebecca said she became involved in a life of crime which eventually resulted in her being convicted of a string of offences including possession of drugs with intent to supply and possession of offensive weapons.

Rebecca, now 26, is about to graduate in Psychology from the Open University and wants to help people like her who turned to crime after suffering from serious mental health problems.

“When I first contacted Probation I was struggling with a number of mental health issues, I had complex PTSD from things that happened in my childhood,” said Rebecca.

“I found that the best way to deal with it was substances, especially drugs, and being a teenager in that environment led me to get involved with the wrong kind of people.

“My home life wasn’t the best either, so I was looking for a way to escape.

“I ran away from home and got married at 17 and dove headfirst into a lifestyle of drug use and got involved in selling drugs.

“I have convictions for possession of drugs with intent to supply, possession of weapons, possession of counterfeit currency.

“I was involved in circles where there was a lot of gang violence involved.”

After being convicted of multiple crimes, Rebecca approached the Parole Board to turn her life around, cutting ties with the relationships and gangs that had groomed her for a life of crime.

“When I first came up for parole, the officer who helped me was really the first person in my life who gave me any confidence,” she said.

“I learned to say no to people and take control of my own life, which was something I could never do before.

“Through NIACRO (Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) I was able to enrol at the Open University on a psychology course, which I am due to graduate from next year.

“I myself was struggling with mental health issues and going through every type of therapy you can imagine, it really interested me and I really wanted to make a difference.

“My dream job would be something where I could help people with the worst mental health struggles and try to understand them and help them overcome it.

“You can use your lived experience to empathize with the person and that can give me a unique perspective to try to help people.”