Gemma had been introduced to Amir by a 15-year-old boy at her Blackburn school. A shy girl with little confidence, she was extremely flattered when she was charmed and actively pursued by the boy, who was thought of by many of the girls at her school as a "dish". When Gemma became enamoured of her new boyfriend, he introduced her to his 24-year-old "cousin", who began plying her with cannabis and alcohol. She initially enjoyed feeling "grown-up" and rebelling against her parents. Soon, Anni noticed dramatic changes in Gemma's behaviour and appearance.
The date Gemma was raped was important – Amir, a seasoned pimp, was well aware of the law. If anyone has sex with a girl under 13, there is a strong risk of being arrested for having sex with a minor. Once they reach 13, however, unless the victim makes a complaint to the police, nothing will happen. Recommendations following the Soham murders clearly state that police should arrest in cases where older males have sex with a child under the age of 16. However, police rarely take action unless the victim complains, thereby allowing the pimps and their customers to act with impunity.
The criminals who did this know what they are doing -- they know the law.
From Gemma, and other girls in her situation, there will be no complaint to the authorities. They are afraid to give evidence, or refuse to.
"That is why I am so proud of Jo," says Maureen, talking immediately after Hussain and Naveed were sentenced. "Although she had been through the most horrendous physical and mental torture at the hands of those two, she somehow found the courage to go to the police."
The pimps are, of course, highly manipulative. Ensnaring vulnerable and unconfident girls, they make them dependent by giving expensive gifts and constant compliments. After embarking on a sexual relationship with them, the abusers begin to control them with threats and brutality, before selling them to other men for sex. There are obvious signs for parents to look out for, experts say. Girls transforming from childish and naive to angry, hardened and overtly sexualised, and coming home drunk, smelling of smoke, truanting from school and going missing from home.
"The abuse these girls suffer is horrendous," says Aravinda Kosaraju, a researcher at Crop, which has in the past been funded by the Home Office and has recently received a large lottery grant in order to develop its work. "The pimps even use pregnancy as a form of punishment," says Kosaraju. "We worked with two girls who were made pregnant by customers and then forced to have backstreet abortions." Crop was founded by the late Irene Ivison, a mother of three who died during a routine operation. Her daughter Fiona, a bright girl from a happy home in Sheffield, was lured by a pimp masquerading as her boyfriend when she was 14. Having been successfully groomed, by the time she was 17 she was dead, murdered by a customer.
It is important to remember here that prostitution is a victimless crime.
Crop researchers have been tracking the pimping gangs for over a decade, and have built up a valuable database of knowledge about the pimping gangs, based on hundreds of stories from parents and victims. However, the pimps are largely able to operate with impunity. "If we had not pushed and pushed about this issue," says Anni, "I believe that Hussain and Naveed would still be out there, just like my child’s abusers are."
Anni, along with other affected mothers, has put pressure on the police to respond by using the local press to back their campaign for justice.
Blackburn is Jack Straw's constituency, and both Anni and Maureen have visited him to beg for help. "I have had two cases at my constituency surgery over the past two years," Straw said, "and have discussed this with the police, council, community leaders and the Lancashire Telegraph." The paper launched the Keep Them Safe campaign last year, following an investigation of several cases of Asian pimping gangs.
Asian... Chinese? Indian? Malaysian? Mongolian? Give me a minute... I'll get this....
Under the control of the pimps, the girls develop something akin to Stockholm syndrome, where they begin to have empathy and sympathy for their abusers. Shirley Gorek, a former social worker employed by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council to advise on child sexual exploitation, has run support groups for girls caught up with pimps. She found the girls can get completely brainwashed by their abusers. "It is almost as if they are programmed into a cult," she says. "There is often no getting through to them."
A "cult" -- funny choice of words....
The pimps' methods of brainwashing often rely on making the victim feel responsible for their welfare. "Amir got me into prostitution by making me feel sorry for him," says Gemma. "He said he was in debt to his landlord, and I was the only way he could make money. I would have done anything for him."
Not all the girls are from disadvantaged backgrounds. A recent national survey by Barnardo's found that, of underage children selling sex, nearly half still lived with their families, with only 14% being in care.
Pimping is lucrative. According to the Metropolitan Police Vice Squad, a pimp can make £300,000 to £400,000 a year selling a 16-year-old girl. There is, appallingly, no shortage of men who wish to buy them. The criminals often use the girls themselves to recruit their neighbours and school friends into the gangs. One mother, who used to drive around the town looking for her daughter when she went missing, says she once saw an older teenage girl apply make-up to two young girls in the street, while older Asian men, whom she recognised as pimps, waited by their BMWs. "The girls then were told to perform a 'sexy dance' for them," says Jean. "But they were so young! I had watched them skipping earlier."
There's plenty of money to be made in prostitution -- so long as you're not the prostitute.
("Asian" men.... Vietnamese? Cambodian?)
Despite evidence from rigorous research by organisations such as Crop that the gangs are largely made up of men from the Pakistani Muslim communities, many are determined to downplay this. "What we’re dealing with is gross criminality," says Kosaraju. "That should be confronted whatever the race of the perpetrator."
Pakistani Muslim?! I am shocked and appalled! I would have never guessed that!
It's amazing how far the politically correct world has come. In the name of equality, they have created a group of people who are so above the law, that they cannot even be openly described when they commit a crime. Now that's progressive -- that's equality!
Mike Cunningham, an assistant chief constable with Lancashire police, says he is aware that several recent cases reported to police in Lancashire have involved Asian men, but that the issue of sexual grooming of young girls is not based solely on race or culture.
"Offenders can and do come from a variety of cultural backgrounds," says Cunningham, "and we deal with each case on its own individual merit." He says he is not aware of "any accusations of racism from the accused or their respective communities".
Historically, many of Britain’s pimps have come from immigrant communities – Jews in the early 20th century, Jamaicans and Maltese in the 1950s and '60s. White, British-born pimps have tended to operate as individuals, rather than within criminal gangs. In recent years, however, young Asian men have been operating in formal, organised networks in the north of England, particularly in the impoverished towns with high unemployment and racial disharmony.
"Asian" men... we now know that means (shhhh) Pakistani Muslims!
Perhaps there is a cultural connection.
Perhaps the men victimizing the girls feel they can do so because the girls are from an inferior culture.
Perhaps the men committing these crimes have an interpretation of a religion that permits this type of conduct with girls who are not members of their religion.
Perhaps their religious beliefs, not necessarily shared by other adherents of the religion in question, is at the very heart of the matter.
Perhaps that's why these "Asian men" (Pakistani Muslims) do this as organized groups of criminals.
How can you dismiss cultural factors without an investigation?