It was with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes that I read about the horrific cases of abuse and neglect revealed in the Rotherham report this week.Much of the media coverage has focused on how men of mostly Asian descent preyed on vulnerable young white victims. The details of this abuse are awful. But what has largely been ignored is the report’s finding that sexual abuse has been systemically under-reported among Asian girls due to deeply entrenched cultural taboos – obscuring the reality that there is a similarly rampant problem of minority girls being abused by members of their own community.I have first-hand knowledge of this problem. I’m coming forward to publicly share my own story in the hope that I can encourage others to do the same and help tear down the wall of silence that perpetuates further abuse.I grew up in a small community of a few hundred British-Pakistanis in Skipton, less than 60 miles from Rotherham. When I was 10 a neighbour started sexually abusing me. Paralysed by shame, I said nothing.
It was only after a decade away from Skipton that I was finally able to garner the courage to return and testify against my abuser. When I first told my mother about the abuse I’d suffered, she was absolutely devastated. The root of her anger was clear: I was heaping unbound shame on to my family by trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. In trying to stop him from exploiting more children, I was ensuring my parents and my siblings would be ostracised. She begged me not to go to the police station.
I don’t need to get into details with the audience of this weblog to know where this attitude comes from. Readers will be aware that it transcends religion and religiosity, though it is bound within the cultural matrix of which religion is part and parcel. My mother, who condemns Western immorality and libertinism, has expressed sadness that a pedophile who preyed upon girls within her social circle had to flee to Bangladesh, because of the shame it brought upon his family. That’s a culture for you.