Shropshire

Child sexual abuse still happening in Telford, says survivor

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Media captionTelford child abuse scandal: Victims urged to 'speak out'

A woman who was sexually abused and raped by men in Telford as a child says she believes young girls are still at risk in the town.

Four men were jailed on on Thursday for sexually abusing Sarah - not her real name - in the latest conviction in the town's child sexual abuse scandal.

An independent inquiry is ongoing into child sexual exploitation in Telford.

Sarah said: "It makes me feel sad that some girls could be out there right now going through what I did."

Sarah, who spoke to the BBC anonymously after four of her abusers were convicted, said her life was "ruled by them" when she was raped and abused in her early teens between 2000 and 2003.

"Every day, getting picked up, taken here there and everywhere, meeting so many men - I can't even put a number on it - it was living hell," she said.

Image copyright Gavin Dickson
Image caption 'Sarah' was abused in Telford in the early 2000s when she was a teenager

During the trial, which ended in the convictions of Mohammed Ali Sultan, Shafiq Younas, Amjad Hussain and Mohammad Rizwan, jurors heard how Sarah was "passed around like a piece of meat" and violently abused if she resisted having sex with numerous men.

"It's gone through my mind every day and I've suffered every day," Sarah said.

"These men, they're vile, they're dangerous, they don't care about what they did."

She said she is "very sure" young girls are still being abused in Telford.

"These men, they're clearly all linked, and I suppose maybe because they've got away with it for so long it's still going on," she said.

Sentencing the men, Judge Melbourne Inman QC told Ali Sultan, who was already serving a sentence for previous sexual offences, "you remain, clearly, a very dangerous man".

Image caption Mohammed Ali Sultan was described as "a very dangerous man"

For nearly 20 years Sarah felt too frightened to come forward, having been threatened by her abusers.

"They said if I ever told anybody they would burn my house down with my family in it," she said.

"I was too scared to say anything to anyone".

After coming forward, Sarah said she feels relief, although she doesn't know how she found the strength to face her abusers in court, which she said was "very, very hard".

"It brought all those feelings and everything back but I have no regrets," she said.

"I was just determined to finally stand up to these men for what they did. Why should they get away with it?"

Now, she wants other victims to come forward.

"It feels like now I can have peace and move on. I want to put this behind me as best I can, and I want to help others to tell their story.

"I know they must be feeling scared, I know how that feels, but they've just got to be brave and they've got to speak.

"We've got to put a stop to it."

Image caption Det Insp Rob Rondel encouraged victims of child sexual exploitation to come forward

Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, told the BBC there is a sense within the authorities that exploitation is ongoing within the country.

"The likelihood of trying to trigger a [police] operation to try and detect this is when someone discloses, so it's absolutely vital that we make it as easy and as safe as possible for people to do that," she said.

"[It is] highly unlikely a girl who has been brought into drink and drugs is going to go to the police because they don't expect to be believed. Furthermore they expect to get into trouble themselves.

"We have to have a very good set of support services, so we need third sector organisations properly funded so wherever a disclosure comes from there is a pathway to get people the support they need, which sometimes is life-long."

She said covert work, engaging a community and using organisations like Barnardos and Child Line will help build up a picture of abuse.

"In a way you need that same sort of 'see it, say it, sorted' approach to keep a vigilant watch on anything that's off that we have now got all used to with terrorism," she added.

"The most important thing is that when there is a disclosure we move very quickly to protect people."

Det Insp Rob Rondel, from West Mercia Police, said: "Our enquiries as part of Operation Vapour continue and will continue as we look to bring to justice those responsible for sexually exploiting others, even if that exploitation took place years ago.

"We encourage victims of child sexual exploitation to come forward, engage with police and find support with our partner agencies."

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, help and support can be found at BBC Action Line.

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