Rochdale grooming case: Victim's story
- 8 May 2012
- From the section Manchester
Nine men have been convicted of sexually exploiting young girls in Greater Manchester. One of their victims tells her story.
The testimony of one of the five victims of the Rochdale grooming ring revealed the depth of the exploitation she suffered.
Speaking at the conclusion of a 10-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the woman, who cannot be identified, said she was forced to have sex with up to five different men in a day, at least four times a week.
"At first I felt really bad, dirty and ashamed. But after a while it had been going on for so long and with so many different men, I didn't feel anything towards it anymore.
"What they did to me was evil, they ripped away my dignity, my self-esteem," she said.
The grooming and subsequent abuse - which centred around the town of Heywood - began when the woman, now aged 19, was a 15-year-old schoolgirl.
"We would get free alcohol and cigarettes, food, free taxis," she said.
"At first I thought it was great because nothing sexual had happened, I thought I could just get all of this stuff for free."
The men, she said, were friendly at first, simply chatting with the girls now and again in a takeaway shop.
"It made me feel like I was pretty. I never thought that they would do what they did to me, because you don't think that would happen."
'Wanted something back'
But the situation changed and she was raped by one of the men.
"He asked me to come upstairs and I didn't really think anything of it," she explained.
"He then was saying all the things he had bought for me, and he wanted something back for it.
"I tried to say no in a nice way, but he wasn't having it."
After a while, the girl was being driven to different houses or flats where there would be other men waiting.
The abuse continued for months, until one evening she was arrested by police for smashing the counter at a takeaway where some of the men met the girls.
It was then she told police for the first time what was going on.
"I was scared telling them, because I didn't know what the consequences would be from the men.
"They threaten you, and you're scared of them, and that's how they make you do it."
The men led the girls to believe they were in relationships with some of them, and it was normal to have sex.
But she added: "They're just brainwashing you so you think you love them so you do what they say.
"It's not a normal relationship when your boyfriend is getting you to sleep with all his friends for money."
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) investigated Kabeer Hassan and another man, aged 59.
But when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reviewed the case in summer 2009, it was decided that the girl "would not be viewed as a credible witness" - a decision not appealed against by GMP - and no prosecution was brought.
"I felt let down," she said. "I know they believed me, they said to me at the end that something should have been done."
The abuse then continued, with a number of men who she had not seen before joining in.
Social services became involved when she started to arrive at school dirty and sometimes smelling of alcohol.
At the time, she was living with an older victim but when she became pregnant by one of the men, she moved back in with her parents.
She continued to receive phone calls from her abusers, and cars with drivers she recognised were parking outside.
"I wouldn't go out of the house for nine months on my own without my mum or dad, because I was frightened," she said.
"Eventually I moved out of the area as I couldn't stay there anymore."
It was not until summer 2011 that Nazir Afzal, the new regional head of the CPS, reversed the decision not to prosecute.
By then police were investigating allegations from another girl about on-street grooming in Heywood.
This eventually led to the successful prosecution of nine men for offences included rape, trafficking girls for sex and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
The woman now wants her story to be told to help people spot the signs of grooming, which she describes as "a common thing that not enough people know about".
She plans to become a social worker, partly due to the ordeal she suffered while still a vulnerable young girl.
"It will always be there, but I know how to deal with it," she said.
"I've had a lot of problems in the past, suicide attempts and drinking, but now I know something is being done to prevent it happening again."