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Experiences Shared


All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Years of sexual abuse that began when she was a small girl led Aalia to obsessively self‑harm. Years later she endured the ordeal of multiple trials.

Aalia was around seven or eight years old when she started going to the local mosque with her sibling. Soon she began going on her own, arriving early and waiting downstairs. A new mosque representative noticed her and suggested she should say her prayers early in his quarters. She thought this odd but agreed. He would stand next to her and compliment her. This went on for a few weeks.

One day, the mosque representative started touching Aalia on her back and then under her clothes. She remembers that she froze when he did this. After a few months he started masturbating in front of her. The first time it happened, she ran into the corridor and wet herself. She was very scared, but he just laughed.

She remembers worrying about smelling of wee when she went home and trying to work out what she would tell her mum if she noticed. She could smell him on her and became obsessed with having a bath.

She wished she could tell her best friend. From around the age of nine or ten she began self-harming. The first time she cut herself and saw blood she felt it was cleansing her. She became obsessed with cutting and would scratch and pinch herself which left scars.

The mosque representative began leaving ‘love bites’ which bruised her and Aalia would have to make excuses for the bruising. Her abuser started ‘rewarding’ her by leaving money in certain places on the carpet; she later realised this was grooming.

When another girl began coming to the mosque, she realised what he was doing. Several months later the girl told her parents, who reported it to Aalia’s parents. She says she wishes that she’d been brave enough to tell them herself.

Aalia was sent to stay with relatives. She continued self-harming and recalls watching an episode of EastEnders with a storyline about a love bite that confused her and made her think that her abuser must love her.

At secondary school she blocked out all her experiences, stopped going to the mosque and lost her faith. She was popular at school and made good friends.

Aalia later went to the police and reported the sexual abuse. Her abuser pleaded not guilty. At his lengthy trial Aalia had to stand in court for long periods over several days.

A retrial followed, during which Aalia found the girl from the mosque, who became a witness, and her mum gave a statement. This was a very difficult time for Aalia – the court dates kept changing and she says she felt angry and depressed and did not want to get out of bed.

Aalia says the police detective on the case was ‘great’, but as this officer worked part-time and no one covered their work, often weeks would go by without any communication. She describes her overall experience with the system as traumatic.

She feels the relationship with the Crown Prosecution Service was poor – they have yet to formally inform her of the outcome of the trial – and she received no support from victim support services.

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