Leeds & West Yorkshire

South Asian girls 'silent over sex abuse'

Unidentified Asian women
Witness Nina said there was a 'wall of silence' in the Asian community

South Asian girls who have been sexually abused are less likely to report their ordeal than children from other backgrounds, a parliamentary inquiry into child grooming has been told.

Girls from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds are reluctant to come forward for fear of being alienated or ostracised by their communities.

Alyas Karmani, director of Street - a Bradford-based group working with vulnerable young people - told the Home Affairs Committee young Asian girls were more vulnerable to groomers because "they are unlikely to talk about it".

He said: "It's because they feel they will be labelled for bringing dishonour upon themselves and their families.

"For that reason there is a kind of cover-up or a wall of silence when it comes to intra-family or intra-community abuse."

Called 'a slag'

In some cases, women have been persecuted by communities for speaking out.

Nina, a single parent whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said she discovered her eight-year-old daughter was being abused by her neighbour and friend in one of Bradford's inner city areas.

She said: "She saw him more as her uncle.

"He would buy her sweets and talk to her - but one day he abused her."

Although Nina reported it to the police, she still feels she has been given a hard time by the community for speaking out. She said she "lost a lot of friends over it".

She added: "They were saying I shouldn't have gone to the police and I should have left it.

"My daughter was being called a 'slag' although she was only eight and she couldn't play out. "

'New strategy needed'

She said more support was needed from social services to deal with the "backlash" from the Asian communities.

Bradford City Council said it had no specific child sexual exploitation service targeted at Asian girls but was working with local communities.

A spokesman said: "Whilst there is not a specific child sexual exploitation (CSE) service targeted at Asian girls, the existing CSE services contain professionals with a range of language skills and cultural awareness to enable them to work with children and young people from Bradford District's South Asian community."

Shakeel Aziz, who runs the Star project - a voluntary group for young boys in Keighley, said he thought a similar project was needed to protect Asian girls from falling victim to sexual exploitation.

He said: "It requires a different type of strategy to target Asian girls and Asian communities to get help and support to them".

Several recent high-profile cases of child sexual abuse against vulnerable white girls have left a perception among many that Asian girls are not targeted in the same way.

But author Umm Thara, who was sexually abused as a child, disputed that view.

She is about to complete a book relating her experiences.

Ms Thara said: "It's very painful but I have to do it.

"I am hoping that Asian girls will come forward and seek the help they need and seek justice."

Although the man who abused Nina's daughter was sentenced by Bradford Crown Court for sexual assault on a child, she considers she has been given an even tougher sentence by her own community.

"We are still suffering as a family. I've moved house and I still cannot go out because people approach me and harass me.

"I did come forward but I feel I shouldn't have."

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