Hindu abuse victim wants more Asian survivors to speak out

By Thomas Mackintosh
BBC News, London

Image caption,
Bobby Singh had to leave her family home aged 14 to escape her abuser

A Hindu woman who was sexually abused as a child has encouraged more victims from Asian backgrounds to come forward and break a "taboo subject".

Bobby Singh, 39, from south London, waived her right to anonymity to highlight the abuse she was subjected to by a "trusted family friend".

Her abuser, Sayeed Shah, was convicted on 13 August - more than 30 years after the attacks took place.

The 63-year-old was jailed for 12 years at The Old Bailey.

Mrs Singh's ordeal started in 1982, when she was just four years old, and continued for a decade.

Aged 14, she was forced to leave home to escape her abuser and became estranged from her family.

"He left me with a messed up life," she said.

"I couldn't speak about this taboo subject. Children didn't have an opinion in our culture and it would be seen as bringing a great sense of shame amongst the community."

Image caption,
Sayeed Shah will spend the rest of his life on the Sex Offender's Register in addition to his 12-year jail sentence

Mrs Singh eventually reported the abuse to the police in 2016.

Shah, of Amberley Grove, Croydon, was charged with five counts of gross indecency with a child under the age of 14 and two counts of indecent assaults against a child under the age of 14.

He was convicted of all the charges, having denied them.

Mrs Singh felt satisfied with the sentence, but explained the additional barriers she faced.

"Some Asian communities brush things under the carpet and then that's it, or they put you in front of the person, sit you down and confront them. It's intimidating.

"As victims, we have a responsibility to deal with it, report it, get justice and some closure."

Image source, Met Police
Image caption,
Sayeed Shah was arrested in June 2016 and charged on 5 May, 2017

Fay Maxted OBE, CEO of The Survivor's Trust, said some cultures have "particular beliefs about female purity and family honour that create additional barriers to seeking help for child sexual abuse victims".

"In some Asian communities women and girls may be held responsible for the sexual abuse they have suffered and will suffer loss of family honour as a result of the shame and stigma.

"There can be a total lack of awareness of what constitutes sexual abuse, and even discussing being a victim can be seen as dishonourable."

Mrs Singh praised the Metropolitan Police for a "thorough" investigation.

"I now have full trust in the police and justice system. People are quick to talk about the police doing something wrong, but rarely speak out to praise them."

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