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Case Study 2 - The Mahmud family

Case Study 2 - The Mahmud family

Ashraf is 14, nearly 15 and until a few weeks ago had been meeting an older man who he met on the internet.

School first raised concerns. Ashraf’s attendance was below 50%. The education social worker tried hard to engage with Ashraf, visiting him at home and occasionally managing to get him into school. However, Ashraf started leaving home before the social worker arrived and it was getting more difficult to catch him there.

Ashraf did occasionally turn up at school but usually did not stay long. His teachers were aware that other young people in Ashraf’s tutor group held very mixed views about him. Some of his peers subjected Ashraf to verbal bullying with homophobic overtones or because of his faith, but others showed great concern for him.

It was a female friend, May, who told her teacher that she was worried about what Ashraf was doing online. May didn’t know exactly what was happening but she said Ashraf was always online to a man called George and that he was a lot older – about 26 or 27.

May said that one evening when Ashraf had been at her house talking to George online she had asked him why he was talking to an older bloke. Ashraf told May that George was the only person who understood him. This had happened about four months ago and Ashraf hadn’t been to May’s house since then, but she had seen him getting into a car that always parked at the end of their street.

Following May’s disclosure, the school’s designated safeguarding lead had rung the children’s social care initial contact point and had been advised to refer Ashraf to the young men’s sexual health service. This service is run by a voluntary agency and employs a project worker whose role it is to engage and work with boys and young men who are at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Alison, the project worker, met with Ashraf‘s mum, Nadia, and gained her consent to meet with Ashraf. Nadia was very shocked and in denial that Ashraf had been seen getting into a car. She had been worried about where he had been going but hadn’t really known what he was doing or what kind of help may be needed. She told Alison that she believed that Ashraf was gay, but when she tried to talk to his father, Aadil, about it he just dismissed it, saying Ashraf was going through a ‘funny stage’ that he would grow out of because no son of his would be gay. Aadil’s reaction angered mom and she became very frustrated with him, so much so that at times she often shouted at him, blaming his refusal to deal with the issue as a catalyst for Ashraf’s increasing problems. Yesterday Nadia became so frustrated that she threw a plate at Aadil, she did not mean to but his denial was so infuriating.

Alison asked mum if Ashraf had ever gone missing overnight. Nadia said no, but he had been coming home late and just going straight up to his room. Mum had thought she had smelt alcohol on Ashraf a few times recently but dismissed this thought; he wouldn’t do this because it was against their religion. If Ashraf’s mum tried to talk to him about where he had been, he would storm out and not come back for hours. Nadia had stopped confronting him for fear of pushing him away. She said she had thought about trying to look at what he had been doing on his computer but didn’t know how to do it.

Alison felt from what she had been told that Ashraf was being groomed for some reason and was at risk of sexual abuse by at least one older man, if not more. She also felt that he was becoming isolated from his main source of support, his family.  Added to this his mum was feeling less and less in control, did not how to talk to Ashraf’s dad about her concerns and worried about the family’s loss of respect within their community.

In this LA there is a multi-agency strategic group set up to look at young people at risk of sexual exploitation. Alison asked mum for consent to take Ashraf’s situation to this group. After some persuasion, Mum agreed but asked Alison not to tell Ashraf’s dad, and thanked Alison for her support.

The next day Alison visited at tea time and luckily found Ashraf in. He initially refused to speak to her but he was desperate for some money from his parents and his mum said that she wouldn’t give him any until he had sat down to have a cuppa with her and Alison.

Alison explained who she was and how she worked with young men who are struggling with all kinds of issues. She explained that mum was worried about him and that she knew he had been missing school. Ashraf just kept his head down. Alison told him that some of his friends at school were worried too. At this Ashraf said, ‘Oh yeah, like they care.’

Alison kept going and Ashraf stared at the ceiling. Alison asked mum if she could put the kettle on and once she had left the room Alison said, ‘Your mum is worried that you are getting involved with older men. She cares about you and doesn’t want you to get hurt.’ Ashraf said ‘She doesn’t need to worry about me; she’s more worried about what dad says.  I can look after myself.’

Alison explained that Ashraf not attending school would get his parents into trouble which could result in them being taken to court. Ashraf sat quietly but was clearly listening. ‘I will leave you some leaflets to read about the service that I work for. I work with lots of young men who are struggling with their sexuality and don’t feel they can talk to anyone about it.’ Ashraf looked like he was going to say something for a moment but mum came back in. Ashraf quickly put the leaflets under the cushion.

The following week Alison took Ashraf’s case to the multi-agency meeting and was surprised to discover that a number of agencies were just becoming aware of him. A project worker from a service that works with girls at risk of exploitation reported that a girl she was working with had mentioned Ashraf. The girl had taken Ashraf out with her to a night club, because she felt sorry for him. The police were investigating a man called George who was believed to pick up boys and pass them on to other sex abusers when he got tired of them. Police were near to arresting George but were waiting for some information from officers who had been tracking his behaviour online. The police intended to seize his computer. Alison was able to inform them that Ashraf had met George online and that there might be further evidence on Ashraf’s computer.

One of the social workers knew of Ashraf because of school’s earlier contact and suggested that there could be a sexual exploitation case conference with a view to making Ashraf subject to a child protection plan.

The following Monday, Ashraf went to school. Mum was so pleased she rang Alison. However, he was home by 11. He came in ran upstairs and locked himself in the bathroom. Mum talked to him through the door. He had gone to school and was OK in the first lesson but when he went into his maths class the teacher had said: ‘Goodness me, look what the cat dragged in.’ and everyone had laughed. Ashraf said everyone was looking at him and he had panicked and had run out of the door.

The following night, Ashraf stayed in. May came round and he looked genuinely pleased to see her. May told Ashraf’s mum that not all the class had laughed and that she and two other girls had gone to see the year head to complain about the teacher. Before very long Ashraf and May were laughing and teasing each other like they used to.

As soon as May had gone Mum took the opportunity to talk to Ashraf, telling him how good it was to see him back to his old self.

The following week, the police arrested George. They asked Alison to go to see Ashraf and his mum with them. Alison phoned Ashraf’s mum to warn her.

Ashraf looked scared when the police turned up.  Alison assured him that he was not in any trouble. Ashraf and his mum sat together while the police told them about George. George had been charged with the sexual assault of three boys and for having child pornography on his computer. The police officer asked Ashraf how he had met George and Ashraf told how he had been in a chat room and George had started talking to him. Over a period of time George had groomed Ashraf, playing on his mixed-up feelings about his sexuality, and in particular how his cultural identify influenced this, and also his fearful feelings about his father finding out.

George hadn’t lied about his age but had told Ashraf that he was a youth worker and worked in a youth club in the next town. He suggested to Ashraf that if he wanted new friends he could take him to the youth club. Ashraf had agreed but George didn’t take him to a youth club, he took him to a coffee bar in the next town. The coffee bar was full of young people and this was where he had met a girl called Jane who had taken him to a night club a few weeks later. The police took Ashraf’s computer and his mobile phone and reassured Ashraf again that he wasn’t in trouble. Alison left, promising to see Ashraf in a few days’ time.

Once Ashraf was alone with his mum he burst into tears. Mum sat and hugged Ashraf and slowly he began to tell her how scared he had been. George had seemed OK at first but had started talking about sexuality and sexual preferences to him. Upon George’s request, Ashraf had been sending George explicit photographs of himself taken with his mobile ‘phone. George had been using threat of exposure of these photographs to blackmail George, saying if he didn’t keep meeting him he would publish them on the internet. Jane had told him that George would only keep him a few months then pass him on to other men. Jane had told Ashraf not to meet George again but she didn’t know about the photographs.

Ashraf’s mum asked him why he had gone to meet George the first time and Ashraf told her that George had listened to him. He had told George that he thought he might be gay and George had been sympathetic and had said he had felt like that at his age. Ashraf explained that he couldn’t talk about this with anyone at home.

A few days later Alison went to see Ashraf and she has been seeing him weekly since. Ashraf is on a phased return to school and his mum says he seems a little more confident. May has continued to be a great support to Ashraf and comes round most evenings.

Ashraf has been interviewed by the police and may have to go to court. He is scared but says he will go because he doesn’t want George to be able to trick another boy like he tricked him.

Alison’s service runs a group for young men and Ashraf is going to start attending.

Ashraf’s dad has not been able to accept that Ashraf is gay and at the moment is refusing to talk to him. Although Ashraf’s mum is very supportive to her son she is continually frustrated by his father’s response and their relationship continues to deteriorate.

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