Fiona sat at the edge of her sofa, holding a blade. Her legs were bleeding, but she felt numb. Her younger sister sat next to her, her cheeks wet. The room was lit with blue as an ambulance arrived outside.
“They used to say I had sexy legs, so I took a blade and I sliced all of my legs open,” says Fiona Goddard, sitting in her kitchen while her two children play in the lounge.
She was 17 when she mutilated them. Now 25, she says she still has three-inch scars down her legs.
“I just thought that if I didn’t have sexy legs anymore, they might stay away from me. They wouldn’t want me anymore. I nearly did my face as well but I got caught by my little sister,” she says quietly.
More than 10 years since she started being abused, Fiona, who has waived her legal right to life-long anonymity, still lives with the consequences.
In February this year – 11 years after Fiona’s abuse started – nine of the men who groomed and raped her were convicted of 22 offences following a trial at Bradford Crown Court. The jail terms ranged from 20 years to 18 months.
Fiona’s case is one of many in the broader grooming scandals that have rocked Bradford, Rochdale and Telford in recent years. And for the victims and their families, these recent convictions do not mark the end of their suffering.
This month it was revealed that four of the abusers in the Rochdale case have not yet been deported to Pakistan, while Fiona called for an independent inquiry last month into sexual exploitation in Bradford. The serious case review will examine how agencies in Bradford had responded to child sexual exploitation in the past.
Fiona’s torment began when she was 14-years-old and living in a children’s home in Bradford. A man called Basharat Khaliq, who has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison, would take her and another 14-year-old from the care home to a petrol station to buy them vodka.
Following this, Fiona was used for sex and to get drugs by numerous men. She was passed around from one abuser to another. She claims that she was groomed and raped by more than 50 men in Bradford for five years from the end of 2007 until 2012.
“I was really chaotic. I was dependent on cocaine, I was drinking all the time. My abusers had got me addicted and I ended up using the drugs and alcohol to escape from the reality of it,” she recalls.
Fiona tried for years to escape her groomers, but they kept coming back for her. Eventually, her abuse came to an end after she came forward to the police aged 21, in 2014, after Fiona saw a BBC report on the grooming and sexual abuse of hundreds of young girls in Rotherham.
At the time, she had developed liver cirrhosis because of how much alcohol she drank during her ordeal. “I started feeling really tired all the time, lethargic and I couldn’t focus properly. I had to have keyhole surgery because of how damaged my liver was.”
She also suffered complications due to the sexual nature of the attacks. “I had a lot of problems with my period. I had scar tissue from being raped at the age of 14,” she says.
But one of the main reasons she went to the police was to gain custody of her daughter, who was born during the time she was being abused.
Fiona had fallen pregnant to a fellow resident at her care home at 15, and gave birth at 16. Her daughter was put up for forced adoption after the authorities decided she was a ‘volatile person’.
Just because the trial has ended, it doesn’t mean that my life has only gotten betterFiona Goddard
“What inevitably led to me getting away from my abusers was me trying to get custody of her,” she says. “Even though it was quoted in the adoption papers that I was a victim of a paedophile ring and my daughter could get exposed to hurt, I was made out to be a bad person and I was the one to blame for that.”
Fiona still has pictures of her daughter in her house. Her two other children are now beginning to ask questions.
But a personal fight for justice has transformed into a fight to get justice for other young women who suffered like Fiona did. That’s why she decided to press charges. “It was about the 50 girls that have been abused over the time that I was abused,” she says.
“A lot of those girls haven’t had the opportunity to have time away from these people and they still don’t understand that they have been groomed. I waived my anonymity to make the girls that were going out with me to re-think what they’ve been through.”
Fiona met many other victims over the five years of her abuse – most of them were from Bradford. She is still in contact with three of them.
“They are doing alright; they have all experienced their own problems since getting away from the abuse. Some of them have children who have been taken away, and they suffer from drug and alcohol misuse as well as mental health issues.
“Each one of them has their own story about what happened and what they’ve had to deal with after the abuse – it doesn’t just go away when [it] ends.”
Fiona is now passionate about changing the public’s view of grooming. Growing up, she says she was verbally abused on the street about “going with older men”.
“People always said ‘Oh she’s got hundreds of pounds of compensation, she’ll be fine’. But in reality I don’t have any compensation,” she says. “I’m still trying to rebuild my life after having to move 100 miles after my abuse.
“I’m trying to move closer to my family because I feel isolated. Most days I don’t leave my house because I don’t know anyone.
“Just because the trial has ended, it doesn’t mean that my life has only gotten better. I still have PTSD. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I was 14.”
Fiona isn’t alone. Grooming can also devastate the lives of the people around the victims.
Girl A’s father, who must remain anonymous for legal reasons, has spoken about the aftermath of the abuse his daughter endured.
Girl A, as she was referred to in court, was 14 when the grooming started. She was taken to takeaways and houses in Rochdale to be raped by scores of men, usually after being plied with vodka and drugs. Nine Asian men were convicted of sex trafficking and other offences, including rape, at Liverpool Crown Court in 2012.
For nearly a year, Girl A was trafficked and moved across the North of England to be raped up to 20 times per night by these men. During this time, she had a strained relationship with her family, and every time her parents grounded her after she went out with older men, she would climb out of the window to escape.
“It’s a perfect storm for the groomer because the more frustrated you get with the child, that pushes them even further into the hands of the groomer,” her father says, speaking from his kitchen. “Once their hooks are in, they are in.”
More than ten years later, the aftermath is still being felt by Girl A and her family.
“After the trial, the media and police go home, and then the families have to pick up the pieces of the severely damaged daughter,” says Girl A’s dad. “The impact of grooming doesn’t end at all.
“When they say guilty, that’s the beginning. It’s not the end, that’s the start. It never ends, it’s a heinous crime.”
Following the conviction of her abusers in 2012, Girl A was threatened in Heywood town centre a couple of times. She was never offered witness protection by the police. Girl A later moved away and now lives in the south of England.
She doesn’t have any feelings. She’s an empty shell. She just stopped feeling completely because of what happened to herGirl A's father
“In Heywood town centre, people close to the abusers said they were going to kill her,” recalls Girl A’s dad.
“Witness protection should have come into play. The main guy, Shabir Ahmed, got 23 years,” he continues. “People will stab someone for £10 on a council estate in the UK. If you’ve got 23 years, they could get someone killed because they’ve got nothing to lose.”
The police gave Girl A and her family an alarm where the police would come straight away if there was any trouble. “But that doesn’t stop pouring petrol through your letterbox,” says Girl A’s dad. “It didn’t happen, but they threatened it.”
Girl A’s mental health has also been impacted dramatically. “She doesn’t have any feelings. She’s an empty shell. She just stopped feeling completely because of what happened to her,” he father says.
Alongside suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Girl A can no longer form trusting relationships.
“When she placed her trust in people it was completely broken. Mentally, she doesn’t allow herself to become involved at any level with anybody since,” Girl A’s dad says. “She hasn’t got any friends because she can’t trust anyone anymore and she’s never had a proper relationship in ten years and if she has had one, it’s been for three months.”
Girl A is still struggling to resist the alcohol and drugs she was first given by her groomers more than 10 years ago.
“Grooming destroyed my daughter.
“It’s meant that all these years on, we don’t see her every day. There’s nothing steady about her,” he continues. “You can’t rely on her because if she wants to take drugs or drink she’s going to do that before anything else. And that’s a direct result of the grooming.
“It’s not going to change, it never is. She’s not the only one. What they do damages and destroys a life. It destroys them,” her father adds.
Like in Fiona’s case, Girl A fell pregnant when she was young. Her daughter was removed by social services. Girl A’s dad recalls how she was threatened by the ‘Honey Monster’, the nickname given to the girl who recruited others for the Asian men, and her family during a visit to see her daughter.
In Rochdale, when I’m in shops, I see men and think, have you raped my daughter? That isn’t goodGirl A's father
“The Honey Monster had her child removed by social services too. In their great wisdom, social services decided to set up both Girl A and the Honey Monster to visit their children on the same day at the same time. The Honey Monster was there with her whole family and they were threatening to kill my daughter,” says Girl A’s dad.
The child is still in care. Though Girl A gets to see her most weekends, her father is concerned for his granddaughter. “She’s damaged because of this. She knows that she should live with her mother but she can’t,” he says.
Her daughter is often disappointed on a Saturday. “My granddaughter is expecting to go to her mum’s, but she’s out getting pissed, so the poor kid gets upset and cries. It really affects her; it makes her resentful. You can’t explain to her why her mum is the way she is.”
When asked how the abuse has affected him, Girl A’s dad sighs. “I do think it’s ruined my health, I was a happy go-lucky type of person but not anymore. I’m damaged from it, my wife is, we all are.
“The whole thing has opened my eyes in a way that I wish I’d never had opened. It’s awful,” he continues. “In Rochdale, when I’m in shops, I see men and think, have you raped my daughter? That isn’t good.”
Girl A’s abuse and the compensation the family received has been met with snide comments in their local community. “They think that we are rich and that makes them jealous. They think it was all set up by Girl A so she could make money,” he says.
Girl A did receive compensation, but her dad says no amount of money can change the way this family is still reeling from the abuse 10 years on.
Like Fiona, Girl A and her family are still reeling. Neither of the girls received counselling and they both continue to have nightmares about the crimes they endured. Fiona is now battling to try and get therapy. For these families, the guilty verdict wasn’t the end of their suffering.
“I wouldn’t wish what we’ve been through, and are still going through a decade later, on anyone,” says Girl A’s dad. “Those men don’t care that what they do destroys lives. They have no thought for the damage that they do.”