THE FOUNDER of a domestic abuse charity hopes that a conference it held on child sexual exploitation in ethnic minority communities will inspire more victims to come forward.
More than 100 people, including Rotherham MP Sarah Champion and CSE researchers, attended the Ending the Silence conference, at Carlton Park Hotel on Friday.
It was organised by domestic abuse charity Apna Haq and brave victims were among the speakers, as well as CSE researchers Donna Peach and Rehailia Sharif.
Zlakha Ahmed, who founded Apna Haq 21 years ago, said: “It was an amazing day and it went very well. We had more than 100 people come from all over the country.
“We know that CSE happens in these communities but we also know there are additional pressures on them to keep quiet which is why the girls aren’t coming forward.”
Ms Ahmed said that of the 1,400 girls who were found to have been exploited in the Jay report, 110 of them were of Pakistani origin.
She said: “Not one of those 110 girls has come forward and that’s to do with the response not being immediate and the issue of honour and shame in communities.
“In my speech I talked about how things need to be done differently to get these girls to come forward.
“Out of the 110 girls, the youngest was just nine when she was subjected to some horrific abuse.
“The cases will never come to court until we can change the attitudes around CSE — that’s what the event aimed to do.
“Some of the girls in these communities are seen as promiscuous and that has got to change.
“We have got to lay the blame where it should be and that is with the abusers.”
Her comment’s echoed those of the Ramadhan Foundation’s Mohammed Shafiq last week, in which he called for the Pakistani community to speak out on grooming.
“Until British Pakistanis accept that this is a problem for our community we will not be able to eradicate this evil,” he said.
“Burying our head in the sand as the usual response is not good enough.”
Ms Champion and South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner Alan Billings also gave speeches at Friday’s event.
The Mayor of Rotherham, Cllr Maggi Clark, also attended the event and paid tribute to the work of Ms Ahmed, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours for her work with the charity and supporting victims.
Ms Ahmed said: “Maggi said a few words and she remembered when I first set Apna Haq up and she spoke about the pressures we had from men when we first started.
“She referred to me as a warrior because I have always fought for the victims.”
The group was plunged into a financial crisis last year after Rotherham Borough Council ended its contract to provide domestic violence support.
Ms Ahmed said: “We are currently being funded by the council until the end of March.
“We’ve got three months of reserves after that but we have put in a number of funding bids.
“We will carry on putting some more together and hopefully something will come our way.”
For more information on the group or if you would like support yourself visit www.apna-haq.co.uk or call 01709 519212.