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Experiences Shared

Wasiba

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Wasiba was brought up in a large Muslim family. When she was eight years old her father deserted them.

He had been violent towards Wasiba’s mother, and she says it was a relief to be away from him. But older male cousins and their friends began to sexually abuse her, threatening to tell her family if she disobeyed them.

After her husband left, Wasiba’s mother made the difficult decision, as a single Muslim woman, to move away from his family. Wasiba changed schools and made friends with some non-Muslim girls, despite disapproval from her family. 

Two of her cousins filmed Wasiba smoking with her friends. They took her to a location and ordered her to give them oral sex, or they would show the film to her family. Wasiba says that at the time she did not really understand what was going on. She was 10 years old.

The cousins continued to abuse Wasiba, inviting more male family members and friends along and forcing her to carry out oral sex on them. They filmed the abuse, and threatened to show her family. When she was about 12, one of them tried to have sex with her.

The perpetrators continued to sexually abuse Wasiba nearly every day, until she was 17 years old. During this time, she says, she thought that she was the person doing wrong. 

Wasiba says her behaviour deteriorated at secondary school to the point that she was moved to a pupil referral unit. She wonders why this did not alert anyone to the abuse. 

She believes that two teachers at one of her schools had an idea of what was happening to her. One of them saw an explicit note being passed in the classroom that referred to Wasiba, but he just laughed. Another teacher heard the boys talking about the abuse of Wasiba, but she believes he took no action as he was a friend of one of the boys’ father. 

As the youngest, Wasiba was subjected to violence from her older siblings. She told them about the sexual abuse when she was in her mid teens, but they took no action.

Fearing she would be forced into marriage, Wasiba left home when she was a young adult. As a result, she suffered so-called ‘honour-based’ physical abuse from her siblings. 

She subsequently reported the sexual abuse she had suffered to the police. She gave a long interview and the police explained how serious the offences against her were. The perpetrators were arrested but a year later Wasiba was informed the case would not proceed to prosecution due to insufficient evidence. 

She says this was the first time she cried about what had happened to her.  She would like to see more support given to victims and survivors in similar circumstances.

Wasiba says because she was abused for so long she finds it difficult to determine what is normal sexual behaviour. She has no trust in men and thinks she will never be able to have a ‘normal relationship’.

After feeling that in her early 20s she ‘lost herself’, Wasiba says she decided to ‘take the positives’ from her experience and turn things around.  

She feels strongly that the Muslim community needs to recognise the crime of rape, but she is aware of the problems in trying to change cultural attitudes towards women.

Wasiba believes it is important to be a good role model and talk about how wrong it is to sexually abuse girls. She explains that she challenges the attitudes of the young men in her family, saying ‘Religion is not a means to carry out things that are wrong’.

 

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