Research published today by Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) reveals that Asian girls are being sexually exploited and authorities are failing to identify or support them. They are most vulnerable to offenders from their own communities who manipulate cultural norms to prevent them from reporting their abuse. This has lessons for all communities – sexual predators tend to target those closest to them.
The report, ‘Unheard Voices: The Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women,’ is based on 35 case studies from across England submitted in a call for evidence. The majority are Muslim with almost two thirds of British Pakistani heritage.
Key findings from the research include:
Key findings from the research include:
· Asian victims of sexual exploitation are being overlooked by front line agencies and little if anything is being done to identify them so they can be helped
· The majority of victims reported to the researchers were between 13 and 14 years old -the oldest was in her 30s with a learning disability
· At least a third of the victims had suffered sexual abuse when they were younger
· Blackmail connected with shame and dishonour is often used to control victims
· The offenders were most often from the same ethnic background as the victim and in two thirds of the cases, perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage
· The perpetrators were of Afghani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, White and Mixed backgrounds
· 86% of the cases involved men operating in groups, with some involving online grooming
· Some victims were unaware of the extent or the different ways in which they were violated or by how many men due to drugs and alcohol
· Attitudes amongst Asian and Muslim communities are mainly dismissive or disbelieving in relation to child sexual exploitation.
Although the research focuses on Asian Muslim victims, it provides lessons for all. MNWUK makes the following key recommendations:
· The Government and local agencies must produce plans to ensure the better identification of and intervention and support for all Black and ethnic minority children and young people suffering from sexual exploitation
· Specialist, culturally sensitive helplines should be set up for Black and ethnic minority children to report abuse
· Communities must prioritise the safeguarding of vulnerable girls over the protection of honour.
Shaista Gohir, Chair of MWNUK, lead researcher and author of the report, said:
“This report challenges the stereotype that child sexual exploitation is a racial crime in which Asian offenders target White girls only. The findings indicate that Asian girls are even more vulnerable than White girls to exploitation by Asian predators - they are considered a ‘less risky’ option because they are less likely to report abuse due to shame and dishonour.”
“We can’t say from the research that child sexual exploitation is more of a problem in Asian or Muslim communities but what we can say is that Asian or Muslim victims often fall through the net. Their abuse goes unreported and they are not provided with the support they need. The sad reality is that sexual predators come from all backgrounds and tend to target those closest to them.”
“While we must be careful not to provide a false perception that grooming is restricted to Asian communities, cases involving Asian offenders must not be swept under the carpet either. Communities under the spotlight must accept they too have networks of paedophiles operating among them. Silence in the name of avoiding shame and preserving honour is so powerful that it is allowing men to continue operating with impunity and further fueling sexual violence against girls and women.”
“I hope the findings act as a catalyst for others to act because there are people in every community who commit such abhorrent crimes.”
Children and young people who are affected by abuse or exploitation can call Childline for advice and support 24 hours a day on Tel: 0800 1111.
Adults who need support or information, or are concerned about a child or young person should call the NSPCC helpline on Tel: 0808 800 5000.
For support following sexual violence or assault visit www.rapecrisis.org.uk or Tel: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm).
MWNUK can also be contacted on 0121 236 9000 / 07415 206936. In an emergency dial 999.
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