A victim of childhood sexual abuse in Bradford was raped by multiple men, physically abused and forced into an illegal Islamic marriage while she was still a child.
The horrifying story came to light in a new independent report looking into abuse in the city over the last two decades after nine men were jailed in 2019 over the sexual exploitation of girls who had been in council care.
In May, 29 men were also charged with child sex exploitation crimes against a girl when she was 13 years old.
The independent report, commissioned by the former chair of the local child safeguarding authority that has since been replaced by the Bradford Partnership, found some children “remain unprotected” from sex exploitation.
The report included testimony from a survivor referred to as "Anna". Her real identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons. Anna's full testimony can be read at the bottom of this article.
The report found that social care and a specialist voluntary sector provider not only failed to keep Anna safe, but that they “colluded” in situations which led to further abuse.
“I was failed for more than two decades,” Anna said.
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According to the report, Anna suffered from severe abuse and neglect from a very young age as family relationships broke down.
“From around 12-years-old, it was apparent to social services I was absconding from home and was being trafficked all over West Yorkshire.
“I was at great harm however they allowed me to continually be subject to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and psychological abuse and harm," she added.
In 2002, when Anna was 14, her mother raised concerns about child sexual exploitation and she was referred to a specialist project Streets and Lanes (SALS) – a service for children abused through prostitution.
She was placed in a residential children’s home but soon started going missing on a regular basis, with the report saying it amounted to more than 70 occasions.
During this time, child services recorded she had an Asian “boyfriend” somewhere between the ages of 18 and 27, and that she had begun following the Islamic religion.
The report said that the residential home’s staff were aware that she was getting into cars with men, including this "boyfriend".
All the while, Anna was frequently telling SALS workers that she was suffering from incidents of rapes, assaults and coercion during the periods that she went missing.
In June 2003, Anna – aged just 15 – said she had married her "boyfriend" in an Islamic ceremony.
The report said that her social care worker colluded in the marriage and even allegedly attending the ceremony, adding: “The willingness of some professionals to legitimise this wedding is clear from agency records."
Anna's situation then continued to worsen when she fell pregnant and was placed as a foster child with her "husband's" family.
“I was 15, but the authorities thought it was in the best interest and to minimise the severity of my absconding and placed me in a foster care placement while being fully aware with the parents of my abuser,” she said.
“We had no similarities in race, religion or culture and I continued to be subject to domestic violence and was subject to a coercive controlling sexual relationship with a known perpetrator.”
Anna said she was also “frightened” to leave because she feared an honour-based killing.
By December 2004, when she was still a looked-after child, Anna was taken into a refuge following an assault.
During this time in care, Anna said she was sexually abused and exploited by dozens of adult males, some of whom were known to her “husband”.
She said: “I'm left with my adult years to educate and work on my mental health state of mind and coming to terms with the realisation I will always be in recovery.
“I'm not in control of my anxiety and only feel at ease with my nerves, when I'm in another county living a life that nobody knows who I am or what I’ve been subject too,” she added.
Anna said she “found courage” to come forward, adding: “I sincerely hope other victims will speak out about their child sexual abuse”.
More than 20 arrests have been made connected to the investigation of Anna’s abuse and investigations continue.
The Bradford Partnership have been approached for comment.
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Anna’s full testimony:
Numerous social services assessments were carried out throughout my very early years from the authorities with a “being at risk’’ noted but nothing ever acted on, and I was failed for more than two decades. My needs as a child were not met my education was nonexistent throughout my teenage years. From around 12 years old it was apparent to social services I was absconding from home and was being trafficked all over west Yorkshire. I was at great harm however they allowed me to continually be subject to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and psychological abuse and harm. Safeguarding risk assessments were carried out and acknowledged that I was being sexually abused by grooming on a large scale.
Recommendations were put forward at various strategy meetings to remove myself as I was at escalated risk from sexual perpetrators and to be place into a secure unit or foster carers away from the area, but recommendations were ignored time and time again. I was regularly missing for numerous weeks at a time with no sightings, and no contact from myself. Social services and the police did nothing to locate me this could have ended in a homicide case as I was suffering from severe domestic violence. I was codependent from being 13 I was psychologically suffering throughout my teenage years, but no intervention was offered. I was a minor, unstable as well as unable, as any child is to make the correct choices which were life changing decisions these have had a major impact on my life.
I was 15, but the authorities thought it was in the best interest and to minimise the severity of my absconding and placed me in a foster care placement while being fully aware with the parents of my abuser. We had no similarities in race, religion or culture and I continued be subject to domestic violence and was subject to a coercive controlling sexual relationship with a known perpetrator. I was frightened to leave, in fear of an honour-based killing.
At 14 years old I was engaged to be married, taking on the role of an Islamic wife fulfilling the needs of my husband and the extended family somewhat like a maid. I was identified as a vulnerable and naïve child converting to Islam wasn’t a case of wanting to embrace Islam for my own individual choices. I was manipulated and controlled while I was on a local authority care order the authorities should have protected me however they allowed abuse to occur for numerous years. Resulting in living a life of dual identity despite only being 15. The local authorities allowed and witnessed a sharia law Nikah wedding to take place allowing a man to carry out sexual activity on a child to occur on a daily basis which is illegal.
If only the authorities had done what was recommend for me, the secure unit or accommodation. I wouldn’t have been subject to sexually and physical abuse for many years. And because I wasn’t looked after as a child should have been under a local authority care order. Contact arrangements with parents was minimal bonds were damaged with close family which can now never be rectified.
I'm left with my adult years to educate and work on my mental health state of mind and coming to terms with the realisation I will always be in recovery. I'm not in control of my anxiety and only feel at ease with my nerves, when I'm in another county living a life that nobody knows who I am or what I’ve been subject too. Throughout my late adult years, I’ve had a significant number of disturbing dysfunctional relationships as I’ve not healed as a victim of child sexual exploitation and physical abuse. I've found courage and been courageous in coming forward and I sincerely hope other victims will speak out about their child sexual abuse.