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Experiences Shared

Shabnam

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Shabnam was sexually abused as a child by a religious leader who was supposed to be tutoring her.

She is still unable to have any sort of relationship with anyone of the opposite sex.

Shabnam grew up in a Muslim family. Her parents arranged for her to have private tuition at home with an imam called Asif. He began to sexually abuse her when she was nine years old, and this continued for three years.

During lessons, Asif would sit Shabnam on his knee and touch her under her clothes. Her parents would be in the house when he did this.

She says that at first ‘I had no idea what was happening’ but it felt ‘very wrong’ and it made her feel sick. She adds that it made it worse that it happened in her home and she still finds this very difficult today. 

By the time she was about 12, Shabnam says she understood clearly that what was happening to her was not right. She knows her behaviour at school changed, but no one seemed to notice this until she was in her mid teens, when one of her teachers asked her if anything was wrong.

Shabnam told the teacher what had happened to her. The school contacted Shabnam’s parents, but they did not take any action and have never discussed the abuse with her to this day. Staff at school gave Shabnam some information about Childline and the Samaritans, but did not follow it up with any more pastoral care. 

Shabnam tried talking to her GP, but the response she got was neither professional nor helpful. 

It was more than 10 years after the abuse ended that Shabnam felt able to report it to the police. The abuser was convicted and sent to prison, but she is still struggling with the effects of what happened to her as a child.

She has suffered with an eating disorder and other mental health issues, she has had difficulty working and is unable to have relationships with men. 

Shabnam feels that what happened to her has in some way ‘stunted’ the growth of the person she could have become. She feels she has been let down by many people but is thankful that she has good friends who support her.

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