Written By Sahdaish Pall
When I watched India’s Daughter, a film about the gang-rape of Jyoti Singh, a 23 year old student from Delhi, it was shocking to see the way in which she was brutally assaulted, and then later died of her injuries. Four men were sentenced to death for their part in her murder.
One of the men who raped Jyoti, was interviewed in the film. Speaking from prison, he expresses bewilderment that he has been treated so harshly. He shakes his head and says, “Everybody does it. If I have to be punished, why aren’t they punished?”
As you read this, you might think this is a shocking statement, but it doesn’t happen in the UK. Well, you would be wrong. These are the sorts of statements we hear in this country all the time.
Grooming and abuse are massive issues for all vulnerable young people. However, the issues around honour make it even more difficult for girls from the South Asian community to come forward and tell their parents or report it to the police because of the fear of bringing shame on the family.
For perpetrators, this is the icing on the cake. They are well aware that girls from South Asian communities don’t report this form of abuse, and they take advantage of that. And one of the biggest problems for our girls is that parents will often blame them. Parents don’t understand how their daughter or son, has been manipulated, groomed by a perpetrator and may even go as far as thinking that their child asked for it. This causes their relationship to break down, and the people that once protected these girls and boys, loved them unconditionally, suddenly look at them with disgust.
Imagine that. Feeling traumatised by your experiences, betrayed by someone you loved and thought loved you, potentially having flashbacks of the abuse, and then the people who you would turn to for comfort, turn their back on you. It’s truly heart breaking.
Having worked in the domestic abuse and women’s rights sector for nearly 20 years, I have witnessed the negative impact of these horrific forms of abuse. Everything from depression, to broken limbs, to a 14 year old taking her own life because her father and brother blamed her for being a victim of grooming. In their view, she befriended the perpetrator over the internet, she went to meet him in a hotel, which then led to the rape and torture for hours by him and other men that were also present, before she was released to go home. She told her father and her brother, who instead of asking who these people were so that they could report it to the police, blamed her, called her names, and were more worried about what the community would think when they found out that this girl was no longer a virgin.
It’s so important that parents understand ‘Grooming’, and why and how it happens, and how to get help. By not disclosing the abuse because of concerns around family honour and shame, only allows the perpetrator to continue in abusing and targeting many more young vulnerable girls and boys. These perpetrators feel powerful, feel like they are above the law, and invincible and I think it’s high time we stood up to them!
This is why for me, raising awareness to parents, and educating young people, is so important. I am constantly looking at new and innovative ways to deliver this learning to different groups of people. Be it through my novel, The Perfect Dress which is a Cinderella adaptation with a clever Asian twist, or through my domestic abuse awareness course which I’ve developed in the form of a board game, which makes it more engaging and participatory.
Together we can make a difference!