I've thought long and hard about writing this. I may press the 'PUBLISH' key at the end of this page but I could just as easily store this article in a file to be added to my private diaries.
I'm worried that what I am about to write could be used by a racist individual or organisation to support their views. I am also worried that I could upset my Asian friends and neighbours. But these friends and neighbours are already suffering because the whole of the Asian community is being tainted by the actions of a small percentage of Asian men. Yes, I'm talking about grooming.
A TEENAGE TAKE-AWAY is the brilliant but terrifying play about the grooming of girls as young as 12 by Asian men. I took daughter Zoe (11yrs) to see it in Macclesfield last Sunday. Not that she wanted to go. But a number of men who live on our street have been in court last week on grooming charges. Last year Zoe had described one of them as looking like a prince. Never be complacent.
If I didn't have an Asian brother-in-law then I may have found it difficult to take Zoe to see this play. The last thing I want to do is scare her into thinking that all Asian men are evil. Fortunately 'Uncle Tariq' (who was the first Asian police officer in the East Lancashire force) counteracts any such fears.
Zoe also knows that I have a number of Asian women friends. Some are happily married but some of these women have horror stories of their own. One, who had two children through her arranged marriage, has only recently managed to get away from her husband and his brother who were abusing her children. She told tales of drink, drugs and an absolute lack of any respect for both women and children. So it's not just our little white daughters who are in danger, it's also the wives and children of these men. When I first met this woman she would joke about putting rat poison in her husband's tea as she could see no other way out of her situation. "You've got to tell the Police," I told her and even as I said the words I knew I was sounding stupidly naive. Her sister was married to her husband's brother. She would bring 'shame' on both sides of the family by reporting her husband. Her children could be kidnapped, all their lives would be put in danger.
But their lives were already in danger and in the end this brave woman did go to the Police and she did get away. She took out an injunction against her husband to protect her children. She sought out excellent therapy for her little boy. They survived but not all do.
There was a post-show discussion after A TEENAGE TAKE-AWAY and Sergeant Mark Whelan of the Lancashire Police had bravely agreed to come along and answer questions. I told Sgt Whelan how my sister, who taught in a local high school six years ago, had witnessed girls being picked up from school by Asian gangs and although the Police were informed, the problem never went away.
Sgt Whelan admitted that it had taken too long for the problem of grooming to be recognised. He said that in the past when young girls were questioned, the police would look for inconsistencies in their stories and if the girls were found to be lying at any point then the case would be thrown out. He tried to re-assure me that this no longer happens. I hope he's right because these young girls have been through such trauma that they often do lie; sometimes even to protect the man who groomed them.
Liz Boor who wrote A TEENAGE TAKE-AWAY after researching grooming for her BBC1 Panorama film in 2007 would love the play to be shown free in schools throughout England. Some parents and teachers may be scared of its content but grooming is a problem that's not going to go away unless we all know about it and everyone, including the Asian community, stand up and say it's got to stop.
That's why I'm now going to press 'PUBLISH'. Please do your bit by passing on this post.