Asian girls are the hidden victims of child grooming gangs, dipping under the radar of police or social services, according to a report released on Tuesday. Vulnerable girls and some boys are being sexually exploited by gangs of men but are being missed by the authorities because agencies are too focused on a model of grooming involving white victims, according to research from the Muslim Women’s Network UK.
The report, Unheard Voices: the sexual exploitation of Asian girls and young women, suggests that Asian girls, including Muslims, are under-reporting abuse to police and authorities because they fear not being believed, or because they are threatened with bringing shame and dishonour on their families.
“I knew we would uncover cases, but I was shocked at the numbers coming forward and the horrific nature of the crimes,” said Shaista Gohir, chair of the network, based in Birmingham. “What we discovered is that these sexual predators will target any girls who are vulnerable and accessible, regardless of their background, ethnicity or faith.”
Over a five-month period researchers gathered evidence mainly from professionals working in in charitable organisations but also spoke to social services, police, youth work, health care, education, justice and voluntary organisations. They uncovered 35 cases where young Asians said they had been victims of abuse. The majority said they had been abused by men of the same background. For example, Afghan girls were more likely to be abused by Afghan men. “It’s a worrying figure,” said Gohir. “This was a small-scale, unfunded study. If we managed to collect so many case studies in a short space of time, what is the reality? It is likely to be far worse.”. . .