'I'm trying to move on with my life' - Halifax abuse victim's bid to rebuild her life
A Halifax woman abused by over 100 men as a vulnerable schoolgirl says the compensation money she received from Calderdale Council over its failures in her care will provide security for her own children as she faces an uncertain future.
Cassie Pike, whose evidence in court over a series of trials in 2016 resulted in 17 abusers being jailed for a combined 168 years for rape and trafficking offences, has been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, the same genetic condition which resulted in the death of her mother.
A subsequent serious case review ordered by Calderdale Council revealed how a “lack of coordination” between police, health and social services failed to protect her from abuse despite the efforts of individual workers who tried to raise the alarm about what was happening to her.
Cassie has started a new life away from Yorkshire with her partner and their young family and said the compensation money she received from Calderdale Council over its failures to stop the horrific sexual abuse she suffered as a child gives her some peace of mind about the future.
“It will get me a mortgage and give my children security when I die,” the 24-year-old said.
She is one of dozens of women to receive compensation payouts from Yorkshire councils over failures to properly deal with child sexual exploitation cases in the past five years.
Cassie was told she had the Huntington’s gene when she was 18 but clinical symptoms, which normally develop between the ages of 30 and 50, are yet to begin meaning she is concentrating on making the most of life with the aim of helping other victims of CSE, including potentially setting up her own charity.
“I’m trying to move on with my life. I have two children and I want to dedicate my future to helping other victims,” she said. “But what I have been through does affect me, I do get down from it.”
She has recently published an autobiography called Prey about her experiences with CSE and said that the process of writing it with a ghost writer, combined with the criminal trials, the serious case review and the compensation process, had been like “putting together a massive jigsaw puzzle” in explaining how she had been subject to appalling abuse at the hands of mainly Pakistani-heritage men between the ages of 12 and 15 in the years 2008 and 2011.
“It was definitely a weight off my shoulders to get it out there. I want to make people more aware of what CSE is and the signs to look out for,” she said.
“I have learnt how serious what I went through actually was. The reaction has been good. Someone wrote to me saying she was a victim in Halifax and Bradford and I was an inspiration to her.”
In the book, Cassie said she was particularly shocked to learn from the Serious Case Review that a youth worker had flagged up concerns she was a victim of CSE as early as June 2009.
“In August the same year the police found me in a house with two Asian men and also flagged up concerns about CSE but, once again, nothing was done,” she said.
“I just couldn’t understand why nobody did anything. It was maddening. If somebody had acted on this information in 2009 I could have been spared the two years of the worst kind of abuse anyone can imagine.”
Cassie was supported to make a compensation claim against Calderdale Council by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, which has represented a number of other survivors of CSE in making claims against Yorkshire authorities.
Luke Daniels, partner and specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said compensation payouts can be life-changing while not making up for what victims have been through.
“The harrowing stories of sexual exploitation across Yorkshire are well documented and sadly through our work in representing survivors we see the huge impact what happened has had on their lives,” he said.
“The psychological effects can last for years after the abuse has stopped and can lead to a number of complex issues such as being unable to form relationships or being unable to work because employment prospects have been harmed.
“It is vital that survivors of exploitation are able to access the specialist support and therapies they require to overcome their ordeal and compensation enables survivors to do that.
“We would urge organisations where issues around the sexual exploitation of children have been identified to treat such cases with the utmost urgency, allowing survivors to access this support so they can take forward their recovery.
“While nothing can ever make up for what has happened securing settlements for clients is key to helping them to try and move on with their lives the best they can, facilitating therapy and support at the times when it is most needed.”
Cassie said that whatever the future holds, she is now rebuilding her life after the horrors of the past.
“It is difficult every day but you get through it.”