A BRAVE Skipton-born woman has told how she was sexually abused in the town as a child and demanded that British-Pakistani community leaders speak out about sexual and physical abuse.
Ruzwana Bashir has spoken in the wake of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, where around 1,400 girls are thought to have been abused by men of mainly Asian descent since 1997.
Her decision comes as the town's MP, Julian Smith, starts a campaign about child sexual exploitation in the area.
The former pupil of Skipton Girls' High School said she was "paralysed by shame" when a neighbour started abusing her.
The 31-year-old, a graduate of Oxford University and now a highly successful online travel entrepreneur in the US, said: "It was only after a decade away from Skipton that I was finally able to garner the courage to return and testify against my abuser.
"When I first told my mother about the abuse I'd suffered, she was absolutely devastated. The root of her anger was clear - I was heaping unbound shame on to my family by trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. In trying to stop him from exploiting more children, I was ensuring my parents and siblings would be ostracised. She begged me not to go to the police station.
"If I'd still been living in Skipton, surrounded by a community who would either blame me for the abuse or label me a liar, I'm not sure I could have rejected her demands."
Her abuser was eventually jailed for eight years for the abuse of Ruzwana and others.
She added: "Although painful to read, the Rotherham report presents an opportunity ... for leaders in the British-Pakistani-community to stand up and speak about the sexual and physical abuse in their midst. The Asian community isn’t unique in having evil-doers and the overwhelming majority of its men and women are good people who care about protecting others."
Ruzwana calls for immediate action to tackle the problems highlighted by the Rotherham case, including better training of social workers and police to effectively identify victims; mandatory reporting by people in authority when they see signs of potential abuse; improved support for victims and a single person in each community accountable for ensuring these policies are implemented.
MP Mr Smith praised Ruzwana's bravery in telling her "worrying and depressing, but important story ".
He addede: "I will be asking to meet the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board Chair and following this I will convene a meeting of key people in October. I will also be asking to meet the Chief Constable as I had asked questions on this topic on a visit to Skipton Police Station several years ago. The answers implied the issue was contained.
"The campaign will look at all aspects of whether we have got the right structures in place, support in place and whether the correct questions are being asked about child sexual exploitation in our area, wherever it is taking place."