(Warning: This article contains explicit descriptions of violence and sexual abuse.)
My story begins at the age of ten. I had been sexually abused by a lorry driver, and although the police were involved, I was too young to give evidence and so the man walked free from court.
I was the youngest child and not very close with my siblings. This event caused me to be even more awkward and withdrawn. I felt increasingly isolated and as though I had no one to turn to.
Dad’s best friend
My Dad had a best friend and I used to call him ‘Uncle’. He seemed to know that I felt out of place and different. If I got in trouble he’d invite me to come and sit on his knee. He’d take all of us for rides on his motorbike and he’d let me sit in front of him on the seat, protected, in between his legs and his arms. All other passengers had to sit behind him. This made me feel special.
At age fifteen, I began acting out at home. I was being bullied at school and I was miserable. My parents never knew about this because I didn’t confide in them. One night, after being sent to bed early for fighting with a sibling, Uncle B, who was in our house at the time, told my Dad that he’d take me over to his house and I could spend the night there. He was my Dad’s best mate and he had a wife and kids of his own. What could go wrong? I was excited to have someone looking out for me and taking an interest in my emotional well-being.
(Warning: This letter contains sexually explicit references.)
I call these years the lost years …
… because that’s exactly what they were. I was 14, my dad was working 12 hour shifts & I hardly seen him. My mum was a bad alcoholic at this point as she couldn’t cope with the loss of her dad.
My older brother left because he couldn’t cope with her & I had had enough of wiping her sick away, changing her & listening to her slurs. I started to hang around with the local shop gang, smoking weed & drinking.
I was in trouble at school & always fighting. A lad older than me began to tell me I was pretty etc & I felt flattered & wanted. He was 21 & we began a relationship. He took me to a house where I was introduced to heroin as naive as this sounds I really didn’t know that this was what it was.
After a month or so I started feeling really ill & was told it was heroin I had been taking it was the only thing that would make me feel better & now I had to start paying for it myself. So my life of crime started. I stole, shop-lifted & burgled commercial premises for my fix.
At 16 I had my son. I split with his dad & tried to get clean but he was taken away by social services at the age of one & placed with a family member due to my addiction this made me far worse. I was homeless & slept wherever I could, stealing food & drifting in & out of different circles. Eventually I became wanted by Staffordshire police & the girls I went ‘earning’ with & myself turned our attentions to the West Midlands.
I met many girls who were pimped out by Muslim gangs …
… given nothing more than a plastic coke bottle full of water to wash themselves with in between ‘punters’ on the streets of Birmingham. One of the girls I knew ended up this way controlled by fear & drug addiction.
There is a growing concern in many areas over the problems which MARIAS seeks to address but an anxiety over a lack of public space in which to do so, without being labelled as Islamophobic, racist, extremist, etc. I therefore hope that MARIAS can provide an arena where people who share these concerns, including courageous Muslim women, can come together to identify problems; put concerns and experiences on the record; work to enable citizens of this country to live together in harmony; promote the rights of all citizens; protect those who are vulnerable and enable all to live in safety according to the laws of this land.
Baroness Cox, House of Lords
Below: Excerpt of letter from Baroness Caroline Cox in support of MARIAS & Toni Bugle’s work ….