Warning, this post includes horrific details about child sexual abuse and it might be difficult to read —
Almost 19,000 children have been sexually groomed in England in the past year, according to official figures, and the media has been all over the grooming ‘epidemic’ that happened in the UK between 1998 – 2012, which was allegedly covered up by the authorities.
A child sex abuse ring involved underage teenage girls in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England. Nine men were convicted of sex trafficking and other offences including rape, trafficking girls for sex and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child in May 2012 (Daily Mail, 2012).
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) then launched Operation Doublet to investigate further claims of abuse with 19 men so far being convicted (Nigel Bunyan, The Telegraph, 2012). Forty-seven girls were identified as victims of child sexual exploitation during the police investigation.
Every one of the men who abused these kids were British Pakistanis, which led to discussions on whether the failure to investigate them was linked to the authorities’ fear of being accused of racial prejudice. The girls were mainly White British (TheWeek.co.uk, 2012). In March 2015, GMP apologised for its failure to investigate the child sexual exploitation allegations more thoroughly between 2008–10.
In 2017 a three-part programme, Three Girls , brought to light the true story of widespread grooming and sexual assault of girls in the area by a gang of Asian men. These were innocent, naive children, who wore tracksuits and trainers, jeans and baggy sweatshirt and had their hair in ponytails ffs —and despite a little makeup, there was no denying their ages.
Still, girls as young as 11 were raped by multiple attackers, trafficked to other towns and cities, and abducted and beaten.
Actress Maxine Peake starred in the series as Sara Rowbotham, the sexual health aid worker who first uncovered the patterns of severe abuse in the area, but struggled to bring it to the attention of authorities. She was made redundant two years after the conviction of nine men in 2012.
Sara, who first noticed patterns of child abuse in the community and fought to bring these crimes to police attention, was made redundant in 2017. And former Detective Constable Margaret Oliver, who was investigating the grooming gangs, resigned in 2012 in disgust at the handling of the cases by the police force and spoke out as a whistleblower to inform the public.
The three-part series tells the story of three vulnerable girls who were plied with alcohol and sexually abused by a gang of men in Rochdale for up to four years. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, trust me, it was so hard to watch; it was heartbreakingly sad and sickening — it made my blood boil. Even more so, when these vile men showed no remorse.
Just recently, five more members of grooming gangs that sexually abused girls in Rotherham have been jailed by a judge who attacked the “indifference” of authorities who failed to protect their victims. (Lizzie Dearden, Independent, 2019).
The group abused seven victims, who were all under 16 at the time, again after plying them with alcohol and drugs between 1998 and 2013.
These defendants are the latest group of offenders jailed as part of Operation Stovewood, which continues to investigate the sexual exploitation of girls in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
A total of 20 men have so far been convicted and the National Crime Agency (NCA) vowed to continue the investigation, which has so far identified 190 suspects and engaged with 313 alleged victims out of an estimated 1,500.
All the perpetrators were Muslim men and conspicuously, no one wanted to risk stirring up Islamophobic sentiment by drawing attention to a Muslim gang engaged in this abhorrent behaviour. So concerned were some officials with preserving the ideology of multiculturalism, that they did not take strong action against the widespread exploitation of young women.
Not only did the judge condemn these men, he also criticised the authorities’ in Rotherham, saying they had at best been ‘totally ineffectual’ and at worst ‘wholly indifferent’ to the abuse of these girls by gangs of Muslim men.
This ought to be a huge talking point. There have been similar scandals in other parts of the country, in Telford, Rochdale, Oxfordshire and elsewhere. In each case gangs of men from largely Muslim backgrounds abused and exploited young women from mostly white working-class backgrounds, (Brendan O’Neill, 2019).
There’s evidence that the authorities’ were conscious of what was happening but took little action against it. It’s alleged that they were too worried about being seen to demonise Muslims and possibly contributing to what they view as a culture of Islamophobia.
Over the course of decades, not enough was done to stop these tragedies in Rotherham and other areas. Social workers, Council staff, and the police allowed the mass gang rape of children to continue.
This says something so disturbing to the victims in Rotherham and elsewhere: ‘You don’t matter. Preventing difficult discussion about cultural tensions in 21st-century Britain is far more important than your experiences of abuse.’ (Brendan O’Neil, 2019)
I just can’t imagine for a second how these girls will move on from the nightmare of repeated rape and sexual abuse. One young girl reportedly said she had three forced Sharia marriages, eight forced abortions and two live births. Her abusers referred to her as “white trash” and not surprisingly — now she feels damaged emotionally, physically and psychologically and is frequently suicidal.
Unfortunately she, like many of the young girls who’ve also been subjected to the horrors of child sexual abuse, is having to endure long waiting times to access appropriate mental health services, at the very time when she says she needs it most? More has to be done to support them, surely?
Twitter’s currently inundated with thousands of tweets about this scandal; campaigners, mental health support services, the public, and me, together with lots of other bloggers, are tagging our Prime Minister, MP’s, House of Commons, the media, asking what’s going to be done.
Is there anything or anyone else you’d like me to tweet? Or perhaps you’ll do your own tweet? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know how you felt reading this post — I want to increase awareness of childhood sexual abuse and the wide range of effects it has on you in adulthood and how it never stops shaping you.
If you have affected by anything written here, please seek professional support. You can contact the following:
https://napac.org.uk/other-support/ — Call 0808 0801 0331 from landlines and mobiles – 10am-9pm Mon-Thu & 10am-6pm Fri
https://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/find-support — Call 0808 010 818 — Mon, Tues & Wed 10am-7:30pm, Thur 10am-6pm, Fri 10am-2pm
https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/non-recent-abuse/ for survivors of none recent abuse — Call 0808 800 5000