Sexual abuse of young women - an epidemic?

The case of the Rochdale sex abuse ring has nothing to do with race, class or religion argues Amina Lone from the Social Action and Research Foundation.

Amina Lone, SARF

The only positive aspect of the shameful trial of the sexual abuse ring in Rochdale is that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) secured convictions albeit much later in the day than many of us would have liked. What is clear is that this is not about race, class or religion. This is purely and simply about the sexual exploitation of children and young women who are seen as easy prey. Sexual crime is motivated by power and control not by the shade of one’s skin. Asian men whether they are Muslim or not are not more predisposed to be sexual predators than their counterparts.

But the threat of Islamaphoia sitting alongside the fear of being accused of being racist is a strong motivator for inaction on the part of police. We are patently aware of the vulnerability of the victims in terms of their age, for some, complex families’ background and other issues such as a lack of protective factors. This makes these young women extremely vulnerable.

This also makes them ripe for exploitation by men who shower them with attention, money and some twisted affection even if this is short-lived and the threat of maintaining silence is always present. The evidence shows that the grooming and abuse of young women occurs throughout every strata of society so focusing on one group to justify our anger is not helpful either to the accuracy of the epidemic or to other victims.

As trustee of the Henna Foundation, I know that we have seen an increasing number of cases of sexual exploitation of young girls since 2009. We have dealt with victims as young as 12 years old being groomed and abused by adult men. These are Asian female victims and the perpetrators were Asian males who know the ‘cursed hush culture’ that exists within their communities to keep the conspiracy of silence alive. The social parameters that operate in these families’ means these victims are invisible and will rarely obtain justice. There are cultural dynamics which cannot be ignored such as certain women being viewed as easy targets because of culturally specific norms and values. None of us can deny or should collude with this.