Photo: Courtesy of Peek.com.
Ruzwana Bashir may best be known as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. But, the 31-year-old CEO of Peek.com grew up in a British-Pakistani community in Skipton, England. It's not far from Rotherham, a small town that's in the middle of a major sex abuse scandal.
A recent report details numerous instances of sexual abuse there, mostly from white victims who say the perpetrators were Asian men. However, Bashir says that's not the whole picture, because sexual abuse goes underreported by Asian girls and women.
She would know — she was once one of them. When Bashir was 10, she was sexually abused by a neighbor. Out of shame, she said nothing. Years later, she finally told her mother who, even in her horror, begged her daughter not to go to the police. She did, and soon other women came forward. Even in numbers, there was no safety, though. They were still shunned by their families and communities for making their accusations public.
People have been quick to point out the men accused of abuse in the Rodderham scandal are Muslim, but Bashir says this is not a religious issue or even a race issue: It's a cultural issue. "It is a culture where notions of shame result in the blaming of victims rather than perpetrators," she writes.
To counter this problem, she's offered up a four-prong solution. The U.K., she says, needs to better train social workers and police offers to identify victims, to require authority figures to report signs of sexual abuse, to improve support for victims who do come forward, and to appoint a person in every community to ensure follow-through on these policies.
While this would certainly help, it won't immediately address the attitude that girls and women are to blame when they're sexually abused. That could take decades to shift. It's something that's depressingly hard to do. Way too depressing.