According to Australian newspapers, a groomer, named only as Sajjad, targeted Lara Hall, an intelligent, Australian, attractive woman with a degree in law earned at The University of Notre Dame. Their relationship developed online, and she travelled from her home in Australia to Lahore, Pakistan, to meet him, when, in early 2018 Sajjad invited her to attend his brother’s wedding in Pakistan. But despite years of building trust, Sajjad was not what he seemed.
Lara trusted him: he was related to a woman she befriended in 2013. She had known him online for two years, speaking in person over Skype regularly. He had appeared respectable, claiming to have – and showing her – his dream homes. Sajjad had even struck up friendship with her twin, Amy, and sent her grandmother emails promising he would keep her safe. He seemed to offer Lara protection and comfort. She saw the wedding invite as the opportunity to see if their online relationship could turn into real-life love. It seemed to be going well.
Sadly, like most groomers, Sajid was nothing like the man he had presented: a compassionate, empathetic man. His home in Lahore was dilapidated and unhygienic, with 20 people living in five rooms. He explained this away, saying they were only staying there for the wedding.
Eventually he admitted the lies. He then held Lara captive and sexually assaulted her on a daily basis, with other relatives attempting to do the same. He even tried to force her to convert to Islam by marrying him. He linked his phone to hers and knew where she was/who she was talking to at all times.
Let Down and ‘Victim Blamed’
Sexual assault victims are supposed to be given consular support, help reporting crime, and medical attention. Consular officials, however, seem to have let her down. When she called, she was told that she should to seek safety and call the police, but she was afraid to go to the authorities because of the overstay – her captivity had extended past her Visitor Visa renewal date. She did not have the means to remove herself from the situation, and had missed her flight home.
The Australian Foreign Affairs website itself warns that in some countries reporting sexual assault can put a foreigner at risk. Afraid,and now in the country illegally, Lara delayed calling the police until, in one of his rages,
Sajjad targeted objects of her affection with death threats.
Lara eventually managed to contact Dr Kaiser Rafiq, chief executive of the elite AFOHS club, “a prestigious members-only club for armed forces officers, diplomats and prominent business personalities”. He managed to get her police support and rescue.
Support Lara, a victim of grooming
Lara shouldn’t have been exposed to grooming. There is no mention of police action/reaction in Lahore in the reports, but Lara has raised concerns about the reactions of the Consulate. We can support her by supporting her petition: LARA’S AMENDMENT: Give Consular Service for Sexual Assault/Grooming Victims Now!
Get involved with the campaign to have adult grooming made illegal in the UK: here
Note: I am concerned about the victim blaming and lack of support for Lara – she really did have every reason to believe she was safe, and suggestions that she was somehow to blame are hurtful. It’s not uncommon for victims of assault/grooming. Moreover, the articles are full of how wealthy Sajid pretended to be, a pattern that I’ve seen in other stories in the media. The links to some of these articles are below:
News.com.au: Aussie Lawyer Raped, Starved and Kept Prisoner
The Sun: My Sex Slave Hell
Metro: Woman Locked Up and Raped
IncPac: Lara Hall Lured to Pakistan
Daily Mail: I was raped, starved and kept a prisoner