Asian girls sexually exploited in Rotherham have been put off reporting it because of ‘dishonour’, an expert has claimed.
Zlakha Ahmed, chief executive of Rotherham-based domestic violence organisation Apna Haq, said Asian offenders have targeted girls from their own communities as well as white children.
It comes after the Jay Report revealed at least 1,400 children in Rotherham had been victims of sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013, with most perpetrators being of Pakistani descent.
In a Home Office-funded report by a Rotherham Council researcher in 2003, it was noted 22 British-Asian girls were among the 268 young women accessing specialist support from sexual exploitation services.
That report, which was suppressed at the time by police and council bosses, said girls of Asian origin were ‘extremely reticent’ to discuss abuse they were suffering.
Apna Haq has organised a meeting in Rotherham today between 10am and 3pm to help raise awareness of sexual exploitation among Asian communities.
It is holding the event at the Unity Centre, on St Leonard’s Road, with the Muslim Women’s Network UK and support from Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police.
Ms Ahmed said: “Asian offenders in Rotherham were also targeting girls from their own communities.
“However, the smaller number of Asian victims in Rotherham is reflective of them not disclosing and reporting their abuse because of shame and dishonour.
“The perpetrators were exploiting vulnerabilities associated with the Asian culture. Using recordings of the rapes to blackmail victims is common.”
Shaista Gohir, Muslim Women’s Network chairman, said: “While we must be careful not to provide a false perception grooming is restricted to Asian communities, cases involving Asian offenders must not be swept under the carpet either due to community sensitivities.
“Communities under the spotlight must accept they have networks of paedophiles among them.
“Silence in the name of avoiding shame and preserving honour is so powerful it is allowing men to continue operating with impunity and further fuelling sexual violence against girls and women.”
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The researcher’s report also revealed the ways in which Asian girls were targeted by abusers.
The report, published after the researcher gave evidence to MPs last month, said there had been initial surprise at the numbers of Asian girls who were victims ‘as there had been an assumption the coercers would not target their own community and culture’.
It said: “The British Asian young women were reticent to discuss their exploitation.
“The most common explanation offered by them seemed to be they were being targeted, enticed into a sexual relationship, and then abandoned.
“The consequences of this were often that they were then isolated from their families and left extremely vulnerable to men who would attempt to coerce them into prostitution.”