Rotherham abuse trial: Victim believed she would never get justice

Sageer Hussain, the ringleader of the abuse gang
Sageer Hussain, the ringleader of the abuse gang
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The central witness in the case against a Rotherham grooming gang has described how she believed she would never see justice done against her abusers.

The now 27-year-old woman first reported being repeatedly raped and physically attacked to police in 2003 when she was just 13 - but no action was ever taken.

The eight men convicted of child sexual exploitation offences in Rotherham
Top L-R: Mohammed Whied,Waleed Ali, Asif Ali / Middle L-R: Sageer Hussain and Ishtiaq Khaliq / Bottom L-R: Basharat Hussain, Masoued Malik, Naeem Rafiq

The eight men convicted of child sexual exploitation offences in Rotherham Top L-R: Mohammed Whied,Waleed Ali, Asif Ali / Middle L-R: Sageer Hussain and Ishtiaq Khaliq / Bottom L-R: Basharat Hussain, Masoued Malik, Naeem Rafiq

Police lost clothes she had given to them that could have provided vital DNA evidence and her family eventually moved to Spain to get her away from her abusers.

She said she was approached again by officers in 2013 asking if she would be willing to give evidence ahead of the publication of the Alexis Jay report, which revealed 1,400 girls in the town had been abused.

Speaking to The Star after eight men were convicted of 19 counts against her and two other girls for offences that took place between 1999 and 2003, the woman said she was overjoyed the jury had found all the defendants guilty of every charge after her 13-year fight for justice and campaigning work for sexual exploitation victims.

The woman said the officers involved with her case in the past three years have been ‘brilliant’ but she was initially sceptical about the chance of any convictions due to the way in which she was treated as a teenager.

She said: “In 2003, I was just basically told I was a liar and it was as though I was moaning about nothing. It normalised it and made me think I must be strange for how I felt.

“I got used to the fact I wasn’t going to get justice, I honestly believed that.

“Things happened and the Jay report came out and the police came back into my life. I felt like I was 13 again and living in that nightmare.

“When the police came to see me, I can remember saying to them I was willing to co-operate but I actually said I’m not holding out hope for justice because I didn’t think I would get it."

The woman said the publication of the Jay report played a key role in helping convictions happen.

She said: "The Jay report put everything in perspective and showed this had been happening - people weren't just making this up."

She praised the police officers involved in the fresh investigation into her allegations, which have taken three years to come to court.

"They have been brilliant. Don't get me wrong, I have had my ups and downs," she said.

"But they have always told me the truth and never lied to me. They have supported me through everything and done things that aren't their job - they have been my support network."

The woman had to give evidence for three days at Sheffield Crown Court and was accused by defence barristers of being motivated by making money from child sexual exploitation, having written a book about her experiences and given talks about them.

She said despite the emotion of having to give evidence for several hours in the same room as her abusers, she ultimately found the experience 'empowering'.

The woman said: "It was stressful - you can't describe what it was like.

"Knowing they were in the same room as me and you could hear everything you were saying, it was like you were in a battle with yourself. You had got to say how it has really affected you but part of you doesn't want to because you don't want them to have the satisfaction of hearing that.

"But after you feel so empowered that you have had your say."

She added: "I thought I would just give my evidence and be able to just move on. But you can't - waiting for those verdicts has felt like forever.

"It is my life that the jurors were reaching a verdict on. You are waiting for somebody else to make the decision of your life."

The woman said she hoped the verdicts will encourage other survivors to come forward in the light of the Rotherham abuse scandal, in which South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council were criticised for failing victims.

“It gives people the courage when they see the guilty verdicts to either continue with their investigations and evidence or to think about coming forward," she said.

She said the verdicts would now give her the chance to move on with her life.

“This is like a line in the sand for me to move on with my life,” she said.

“I will always campaign for victims, it is in my heart and I’m passionate about it.

“But I have gone back into education, I’m going to university next year and can now do what I should have done years ago.”

READ MORE:

Eight men found guilty of sexually abusing teenage girls in Rotherham
Family's journey 'to hell and back' in fight for justice
Hundreds more suspects in Rotherham child abuse investigations