When the Rotherham child abuse scandal exploded last year the nation hoped that the sordid story was a horrifying one-off.
But in the wake of the revelations came allegations of more Asian gangs sexually abusing white girls–some as young as 12–in cities across the north of England.
For Katie Taylor (not her real name), the sickening tales of sexual abuse came as no surprise, because as a 13-year-old, she too had been a victim of predatory gangs.
In a brave appearance on ITV breakfast show, This Morning, she revealed that she had first been approached by a handsome man named ‘Sam’ at just 13 years of age.
‘I first noticed him when he began following me home from school but I didn’t think anything of it at first,’ she said from behind a screen.
‘He said he couldn’t be seen with me in public because I was white and he was Asian.’ but to all intents and purposes, she added, ‘we were boyfriend and girlfriend.’
For a while things seemed fine. Katie, the product of a broken home and the victim of bullying at school, revelled in Sam’s attention but things soon took a turn for the worse.
Hitherto gentle and kind, things turned violent when, one day, Katie refused to have sex with Sam. ‘He wouldn’t let me go,’ she remembered.
‘He stood in front of the door and I tried to open it but there were three locks on the door… I just couldn’t get out. To get out, I had to have sex, yes…’
Worse was to come. She was taken to meet two men named Wadi and Tali after a chance visit to a corner shop. Both swiftly started to abuse her.
At the meeting that followed, first Wadi, then Tali forced themselves on the 13-year-old girl. But shockingly, Katie was by now so conditioned to Sam’s behaviour that she didn’t realise anything was wrong.
‘I just thought they were my boyfriends because they were always nice to me, they were always giving me things and they always said I was special and they loved me, so I just thought they were my boyfriends,’ she said.
As the abuse escalated, more and more men became involved, including ‘Zeb’, who bombarded her with texts and calls before driving her to his home, where she was forced to perform a sex act on him.
Things went from bad to worse, eventually culminating with a disgusting sex party, during which Katie was drugged and raped by several men.
‘He [Zeb] gave me vodka and coke and I didn’t think anything of it,’ says Katie. ‘He asked me to stand up and I just fell to the floor. My vision was blurry and the voices were echoing in my head. I just couldn’t feel my own body.
‘I remember before I was taken upstairs, there was only Zeb and two other guys there. They took me upstairs.
‘It was dark in the room but I can remember three figures laid on the bed. After that, all I can remember is being sick and passing out and when I woke up, I was on the floor and all of my clothes were off, and when I went back downstairs, I can’t remember the number, but there was more men there that weren’t there before…
‘When I woke up I felt sore everywhere and I knew what had happened because they were there and obviously they wouldn’t have taken my clothes off for nothing. I know that they did something…’
And still her nightmare continued, with Katie eventually hitting rock bottom the following month, when she discovered that she had become pregnant as a result of the gang rape.
Sickened and demoralised after being forced to have an abortion, the final straw came when Zeb said he wanted to pimp her to his friends and insisted that she start taking cocaine.
Bravely, Katie plucked up the courage to tell a social worker what had happened and the police were duly involved.
Although the police were determined to prosecute Zeb and his gang, Katie was horrified to be asked early on about the racial politics surrounding the case.
‘The police really did want prosecutions but it was ridiculous because early on they brought up the issue of race, and I didn’t even know why it mattered after what they’d done, but they told me they had to be careful how they dealt with it in case they were called racist,’ she explained.
Turning to Kama Lamy, a legal expert in the field of child abuse, presenter Philip Schofield then asked whether this meant that abuse of the sort that Katie suffered was a racial issue.
Not so said Lamy. ‘We have to remember, of course, that the vast majority of child sexual abuse takes place within the home and is perpetrated by white males and not Asian groups,’ she told Schofield and fellow presenter, Holly Willoughby.
‘Tragically, Katie’s story is not completely unfamiliar to those of us who work within the criminal justice system, but it is rare and unusual and we have to bear that in mind.’
She added: ‘By taking children as young as Katie who don’t have enormous experience of the world or sexual behaviour beforehand, they’re [gangs] able to absolutely normalise what is child sex abuse.’
Katie, who has written a book about her harrowing experiences called Stolen Girl, was then asked what she would say to anyone currently in the same situation.
‘I would say to them obviously come forward,’ she said. ‘I’d say the moment someone says to them, “don’t tell anyone, this is our secret”, tell some one straight away because you know something is wrong.‘