A mother who wanted to kill herself following her abuse by the ringleader of the Rotherham sex-grooming gang has said she finally feels free from his clutches after he was locked up for 35 years.
Jessica*, now 30, was targeted by Arshid Hussain when she was just 14 years old and he was 24.
She became pregnant by him twice, suffered mental abuse and was physically assaulted. Jessica was also forced into carrying out petty crime after being picked up by Hussain, who was known as
‘Ash’ and ‘mad Ash’ in the northern town.
Along with his brothers Basharat and Bannaras Hussain, their uncle and two white women, Hussain sexually exploited 15 victims, aged between 11 and 21, over a period of 16 years from 1997.
The Hussain brothers were handed hefty sentences last Friday (26).
Nazir Afzal, who was the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) lead on child sex abuse and violence against women and girls, told Eastern Eye on Monday (29) that when he left the CPS last year, he
knew of at least 200 Asian suspects nationwide who were being investigated for street grooming.
“You can see this is an issue that needs to be at the top of the agenda for our community, but it is not,” he said.
In an interview with Eastern Eye, Jessica said she felt determined to “move on and have a better future”, despite being plagued by an eating disorder and spending years being blamed for her exploitation.
“I now feel free of him even though I’m still on a journey. I hope other people can turn their lives around like I have,” she said.
The mother of two was one of the 1,400 children groomed by gangs of mainly British Pakistani men and often subjected to degrading and violent acts.
Police, social workers and council leaders were all severely criticised for failing to prevent the abuse. An inquiry revealing the scale of the heinous crimes said officials had not acted on evidence of abuse partly out of fear of being labelled racist.
Jessica spent two days giving evidence at the trial and then attended the sentencing, which she said was incredibly emotional and tense.
“About three years ago I completely hit rock bottom. I became suicidal and I got diagnosed with major depression. I felt so disgusting and I felt like a freak. I felt dirty, I thought I was never going
to be normal.”
When she was 14, Jessica believed she was in a relationship with Ash and wanted to settle down with him. It only dawned on her a few years later that when she saw him every day over a period of two years, she was being groomed.
“There were so many girls coming up to me saying ‘he’s my boyfriend’, which he denied. He said they were exes and jealous ‘because I’m with you now’. He only ever admitted (to sleeping with)
one girl when he was with me and that was my best friend. I didn’t see that she was a victim as well.”
Hussain lured Jessica in with his flashy car and designer clothes, showering her with gifts and compliments. On the first night they met, she was taken to a house where six men were present and
was later made to have sex with Hussain.
When she first became pregnant, within four months of meeting him, Hussain told her to abort the baby because he was worried he would get into trouble. He was married, something Jessica
said she did not know, and had abused seven girls before her.
Jessica said she had a “really good childhood” but became a runaway troubled teenager after meeting Ash. She was placed into care by her parents in an attempt to separate the couple, but her
foster carer allowed him to continue seeing her.
She has raised concerns that the individual involved is still looking after children. After Ash became controlling and aggressive Jessica went to the police, but she was not believed.
“I was always blamed. I was never treated as his victim, I was always told I was his mistress, his equal, and a little criminal,” she told Eastern Eye.
“When you get told that all the time, that’s what you start to believe. I believed that until three years ago, that’s why it took me so long to come to terms with it. The vast majority of people in
Rotherham were blaming me and when you’ve got that amount of people constantly putting you down, you start to believe that.”
She said she is now on a mission to help other girls come forward and report abuse.
“I want other girls to think if Jess and the other girls can get justice after everything that they have been through, then so can we. I had people believe in me and it’s changed my life. I want the same for other people, for them to get the support they deserve. Speaking out made me feel really proud of myself.”
Basharat and Bannaras Hussain were jailed for 25 years and 19 years, respectively. Their uncle Qurban Ali was jailed for 10 years.
Karen MacGregor, who offered young women accommodation at her home and then expected them to have sex with men, was handed a 13 year sentence.
A sixth defendant, Shelley Davies, will serve an 18-month suspended jail term.
One report last month said the Pakistani origin abusers will be stripped off their British citizenship and deported once they have completed their jail terms.
Sentencing them at Sheffield crown court, judge Sarah Wright said: “The impact of your offending upon the victims, their families and indeed the wider community has been devastating.
“Their childhood and adolescence can never be reclaimed. Each has suffered immense psychological harm.”
Jessica said: “I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve got an eating disorder, I’ve had that for years. He (Ash) had this obsession with food, a lot of things I weren’t allowed
to eat because he were Muslim, but he was constantly trying to feed me. I found that quite strange. I also want to spend time with my kids
and my campaign work.”
Since the scandal hit the headlines two years ago, she has met prime minister David Cameron and urged him to provide emergency counselling services for abuse victims who are currently on a
waiting list for therapy. Jessica also wants the criminal records of grooming victims, who are often charged with petty crime through their association with their abusers, to be expunged as it
can prevent them from gaining employment.
“A victim should never ever be blamed or prosecuted for their own abuse. It affects them for the rest of their life and it makes it harder for people to have a future. There will be so many people out
there who have criminal records because of the abuse,” she said.
*Jessica’s name has been changed.