Rotherham

 

 

Multiculturalism has spectacularly failed in the town of Rotherham. For the past thirty years those in charge of safeguarding children and young people have let them down in ways we cannot even comprehend.

Some are saying this systematic rape of young, vulnerable white girls, goes back to the 70’s. Such is the scale of the abuse, you wonder if it has been happening since the Pakistani men first arrived in the UK to make a better life for themselves and their families. As the daughter of a ‘gori’ – white woman – I have experienced first hand the shame some people in society, both the Pakistani and white community, made me feel for being either the “gori’s” daughter or the “Paki’s” daughter. Both labels were used to insult me and to make me feel somehow inferior for not being “pure” enough. Being the gori’s daughter was enough for some to view me as being easy, loose and having no morals.

Racism was rife in the 60’s, with signs, saying ‘No Irish, No blacks and No dogs.’ Fear of the unknown and the different cultures made people behave in ways, which we now know, are unacceptable. As the decades went by people started integrating and multiculturalism looked like it might work. A society operating in harmony and unity with people from both sides losing their fears, prejudices and racism, looked firmly in reach.

Underneath the surface though, there was another story playing out. The political correctness movement was being formed and with it common sense was being thrown out of the window. The fear of being labelled a racist for questioning any aspects of someone’s culture, be it FGM, forced marriage, child brides or the selling of underage girls for sex, allowed these shocking practices to flourish. Thirty years on we are witnessing the brutal fallout from that fear.

You would think 1,400 girls, from just the one small northern town, groomed and raped by Pakistani men, would have caused an outrage. Not so, is the case unfortunately. The reasons for this are vast and varied, I imagine. The Pakistani community is full of good, decent people, like any other community in the UK and around the world. The Pakistani people are human and as with humans everywhere there is good and bad. I belonged to the Pakistani community for 21 years; I saw both the good the and bad.

Grooming was happening when I started secondary school in the early 80’s and it had probably been happening before then. Only we didn’t have a name for it. Pakistani men, in their late teens and early 20’s would loiter round the school at lunchtime and at the end of the school day, either in their cars or on foot. Nobody asked what they were doing there and the teachers never questioned when Muslim, Sikh and Hindu girls would get in these men’s cars and be driven off, usually to the park. These men rarely targeted white girls although they were not fussy about what underage girl they hooked up with. As long as a girl showed a bit of interest they would shower her with compliments.

I remember at the beginning of my second year at school that one of the new first year girls, a Sikh girl, would go off with one of the older men. After several ‘dates’ she shared with us that she had lost her virginity to him. She believed he was her boyfriend and saw nothing wrong with the fact that she was 11 years old and he was 26 years old. If these men were to try that with Asian girls at my old school today there would be a riot. Grooming of Asian girls is not acceptable, in public anyway.

My Pakistani father disowned me when I was 21 and all those years ago that meant that the entire Pakistani community shunned you. Thankfully it has changed a little now and if a Pakistani girl chooses to live alone and be in control of her own life, she will still be welcome in the wider community. There may be gossip but there is always gossip.

After I was disowned, the white community accepted me, but I rarely saw or interacted with my Pakistani side. I missed out on the gradual seeping of Wahhabism, a stricter version of Islam that was occurring. When I was growing up there was one girl at school who wear the hijab. Most of us girls had a headscarf to match our school uniforms, which we wore round our neck. Some of us shoved the scarf into our school bags only to be taken out and worn when going home from school, at the end of the day. Whereas previously, first and second generation women were uncovered and integrating happily into society, the introduction of Wahhabism halted that. Women started wearing hijab and a divide of them and us was created.

It was also no longer acceptable to groom and rape your Muslim sisters. Or at least it was no longer acceptable to do it so publicly. The Sikh community fed up of their girls being raped, had set up vigilante groups to protect them.

The Pakistani community has very strong, outdated and often twisted views of “honour.” What others in the community think of them and what those outside of the community think of them is of huge importance, and it plays an important part in the silencing of the grooming and rape of young underage girls. The shame at being found out is far more important than the protection of these innocent victims.

It was quite telling that there has been no Pakistani vigilante group set up to protect their own daughters and sisters from the filth that quite clearly is lurking in the community. We know without a shadow of doubt it happens. A few years ago I volunteered for a charity dealing with issues of sex abuse in the BME community. I spoke to many Pakistani women who all had a story to share about their abuse.

One woman in particular, I will never forget. Her cousin was raping her. The cousin was much older and was left in charge of babysitting duties every Saturday, while the mums went shopping. One Saturday the cousin’s mum came back early and walked into the bedroom where her son was raping her niece. She walked out and closed the door and it was never spoken about until years later when she would tell her niece, ‘I would rather he abused the girls in the house, rather than the white girl down the street, whose parents would not think twice about going to the police.’

If that mother hears her son is raping white girls and passing them around is she going to report it to the authorities?   No, of course she is not. The shame that would bring onto her family would be unbearable. Better to turn a blind eye and stick your head in the sand like an ostrich than face the gossip about your family. For some Pakistanis the shame of being gossiped about far outweighs the protection of their own girls, never mind the white girls. This survivor was in her 40’s when the trauma of being raped got too much and she had a breakdown. How many more South Asian women are suffering in silence or killing themselves as they see no way of escaping the hell they find themselves in? There are no helplines for sexually abused South Asians. There are figures that show South Asian women are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. We know about patriarchy, misogyny, forced marriages, FGM, honour violence, all of which, are now in mainstream media. Sex is a taboo subject and so sexual abuse becomes a hyper taboo subject that few are willing to openly discuss. We see no huge campaigns and no helplines being set up to deal with this specific issue, so ingrained is the shame and stigma of child sex abuse.

Rotherham isn’t the only town that has been rocked by the scandal of Pakistani grooming gangs. We now know it has happened in Oxford, Rochdale, Bradford and who knows where else. We now know the young victims, some as young as 11 years old, were crying out for help and being ignored. An eleven-year-old girl hanging around with groups of men and nobody thought it was wrong? Even if there was no sexual abuse-taking place, what professional in charge of safeguarding children thinks this is acceptable whether the year is 1982 or 2016? There is always going to be something sinister about grown men hanging around with little girls; even those not in the profession of caring for children can see this. Yet for over thirty years it has been allowed to happen with rapists believing they were above the law because of their religion and race.

These rapists have learnt that their religion and race placed them above the law, because no action was taken against them. There have been reports of police collusion. What chance did the victims have against such political correctness and corruption?

How many more Rotherhams are still operating unchecked due to fear of racism and political correctness gone mad? I worry that there are many towns and cities in the UK covering up their own similar scandals. A large portion of the Pakistani community is unhappy with the media attention directed at them and will forever be silent in both condemning these men and reporting them. Very few Pakistani men are reported to the police for sexually abusing or raping a child relative or family friend. The done thing is not to talk about it, head in the sand attitude. Heaven forbid the world finds out that paedophiles exist in the community and that Pakistani people can be just as corrupt and evil, if not more, than the white community. Shame the victim, as seems to be the case no matter what religion or race, and protect the abuser. The Pakistani community needs to acknowledge there is a huge problem of abuse in their own community and then, maybe they will no longer be silent on the abuse of the white girls or any other girls.