UK

Yorkshire Muslim girl speaks of grooming ordeal

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Media captionLubna tells of her grooming ordeal

A report has lifted the lid on the sexual exploitation of at least 1,400 children in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, by gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin. Although most of the victims were white, some were also Asian.

A teenage Muslim girl has told the BBC how she was groomed and then sexually abused by gangs of men in Yorkshire.

It started at the age of 13 when she was plied with alcohol and drugs including cannabis.

Lubna - not her real name - thought the men were her friends. Some of the men lied about their real age.

"I met some of them in local shisha bars. They got their own way with me," she told BBC Asian Network.

She says she did not realise what was happening to her and she felt alone and thought they "cared about her".

"They asked me to wear clothes that would show my figure and different parts of my body," said Lubna.

Feared for family

Being a Muslim of Pakistani origin, she realised what she was doing was against her religious beliefs.

But she feared for her family's safety if she tried to stop: "I thought they might come to my home and break the windows - even kill someone."

She says she felt "worthless" and began to self-harm.

"I was punching walls. Then I found a knife in the kitchen drawer and cut my arms. I thought the pain felt good," said Lubna.

She tried to overdose twice, ending up in hospital. It was then her father stepped in.

Lubna's father, Mushtaq, said many young men were friends with her on Facebook. They would often pick her up from home in their cars.

Mushtaq decided to confiscate her phone. He told me: "I went through it speaking to all her male contacts to find out who they were."

Suffering in silence

Campaigners have said Asian victims of sexual abuse are often forced to remain silent to protect what their families believe is their honour.

Image caption Mushtaq says many in the Muslim community want to brush abuse "under the carpet"

They say it is a nationwide problem which is under-reported.

Jaswinder Sanghera, a founder member of Karma Nirvana, a charity that helps women and men who are subjected to "honour-based abuse", says: "Asian women are deliberately targeted because men know they won't come forward [to complain].

"So they can be exploited and abused."

Sheffield City Council said 20% of the referrals they dealt with in 2013 came from young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Sue Fiennes, from the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board, told the BBC: "We are engaging with the community about the issues and we offer intensive support to victims of CSE [child sexual exploitation] regardless of their race and ethnicity."

Mushtaq is aware of the taboo surrounding the issue of sexual grooming but believes the community should do more to help victims rather than "brush it under the carpet".

"There's nothing in our religion that says you can't speak out about a crime," he said.

Lubna is receiving counselling following her ordeal.

And with the help of her father she has turned her life around. She is back at college, continuing her studies.

"I would tell other teenagers to listen to their parents because they know best," she says.

Nobody has been prosecuted for abusing her.

To hear more about this story listen to The Today programme on Monday from 06:00 GMT or BBC Asian Network.