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Rotherham abuse victim: The police made me feel like I was the problem

It's still unclear how the Inquiry came up with an estimate that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited from 1997 to 2013 and taking randomised samples without going through the entire case files may have made the Inquiry's conclusion unreliable. There were only 28 confirmed cases of sexual exploitation in Rotherham during the period but the Inquiry studied 38 cases out of 988 potential victims and boldly concluded that 95% of them were victims of sexual abuse without firm evidence. To make matters worse, 500 more victims were added to the figure based on vague inter-agency discussions about "hundreds of children" who were at serious risk of sexual exploitation. The population of Rotherham is 250,000 and 56,000 of them are children under 17 and the number of abuse victims amounts to 2.5% of the children in the small town.

The Inquiry was given a list of 988 children known to children’s social care, or the Police. 51 were current cases and 937 historic. We read 66 case files in total. 4.4 We took a randomised sample of 19 current and 19 historic cases. In 95% of the files sampled, there was clear evidence that the child had been a victim of sexual exploitation. Only two children (5%) were at risk of being exploited rather than victims. From the random samples, we concluded that it was very probable that a high proportion of the 988 children were victims.

4.5 A further 28 case files were read. 22 were historic cases sampled from lists of suspected victims in police operations, including Central, Czar and Chard. Three were current cases brought to our attention during the course of the Inquiry, and three were historic cases of children who had been highlighted by national media. All 28 children were victims of sexual exploitation.

4.6 To help reach an overall estimate of the problem, we used reports to the Local Safeguarding Children Board (formerly the ACPC) and Council committees. We examined minutes of the Sexual Exploitation Forum and minutes of independently chaired Strategy meetings where individual children were discussed. These included inter-agency discussions about hundreds of children who had suffered, or were at serious risk of sexual exploitation. We also had access to lists, and sometimes summary descriptions, of many hundreds of children who were supported by Risky Business, individually or in group sessions. Taking all these sources together, the Inquiry concluded that at least 1400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013. This is likely to be a conservative estimate of the true scale of the problem. We are unable to assess the numbers of other children who may have been at risk of exploitation, or those who were exploited but not known to any agency. This includes some who were forced to witness other children being assaulted and abused.


A previous study conducted by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) on "localised grooming" found that 30% of offenders (367) were white and 28% were Asian (346). It's also known that white offenders commit attacks in isolation and grooming (i.e. via Facebook), while Pakistani men were caught transferring girls among young men at ethnic food restaurants common in the Asian community. Street grooming is hard to detect because it has been done in great secrecy with the victims' consent and the victims are usually abandoned children in care homes who are unlikely to contact the police.


Moreover, the victims of street grooming are mostly white because 78% (53,030) of children looked after by care homes in 2013 were white and 9% (6,090) were of mixed racial background. Furthermore, 4% (2,620) were Asian or Asian British and 7% (4,470) were Black or Black British. The police may need to monitor care homes more closely so that teenage girls would not disappear at night with older men to earn pocket money or receive expensive gifts in return for dating with them. Care home workers are usually reluctant to intervene physically to prevent people from leaving institutional premises, including children who repeatedly go missing and are believed to be at risk of sexual exploitation. Some former care home workers are now citing political correctness for their inaction but British society's traditional indifference towards those who are socially and economically marginalised may be at the heart of the problem.


The first victim who had ever contacted the police in the 2000s complained that nobody cared about them including police officers and social workers because they were abandoned children in care homes or teenage girls from troubled backgrounds who had been known to the police. There was a systematic failure to protect vulnerable teenage girls who were lured into prostitution because of a mixture of class prejudice and sexism and the police did not investigate further even after these sexual exploitation victims were formerly questioned. A mother of an abuse victim claimed that she was told by the police in Rotherham it would be a breach of the girl’s human rights if they investigated after she discovered 125 names of potential sex abusers on her daughter’s mobile phone. It has also been alleged that senior staff at Rotherham Council ordered a raid on its own youth outreach office to remove files and delete computer records that were related to the sex abuse case.

We deal with teenagers who've been exploited, raped and subjected to gang violence. Some have fallen prey to gangs of Asian men, as in Rotherham, but elsewhere the perpetrators have been white men, black men or mixed gangs. What the victims often have in common is that they were either not believed or they were ignored or, worse still, blamed.

We have had 13-year-old rape victims described by police as "promiscuous", 14-year-olds called "slags" and countless others who won't speak to the police at all because they are too scared and ashamed. For girls who have already suffered abuse, this victim blaming or, in some cases, total denial and disbelief, serves to crush further what little is left of their sense of self-worth. I've spent years trying to understand where these attitudes come from. Why are some victims seen as unworthy of help? Why is the label "streetwise" applied to them as if it's an excuse for doing nothing? Is it because many are from rough council estates? Is it because they often come from troubled backgrounds and have already been written off? Is it cultural? Class prejudice? Is it straightforward sexism?

I do understand that it's difficult for police to handle sexual abuse, exploitation and rape. Very often, the victims can't or won't give evidence; they have sometimes got caught up in criminality themselves and frequently show misplaced loyalty to their abuser. For many victims, it's a long time before they can see that what is happening to them is wrong and they don't have to endure it. To be fair to front-line workers in Rotherham, they did try to get senior managers to take action. But those senior managers never did. Somewhere along the line, in juggling budgets and priorities they made a compromise – and they compromised on child rape. That decision to take no proper action in Rotherham wasn't just heartless, it was a false economy. I've no doubt that, like me, those victims will struggle with the consequences for years, at great human cost to themselves, and financial cost to the taxpayer.

Rotherham child sex abuse: my shame has gone. Now I'm angry for the thousands of us who've been abused | Anonymous | Comment is free | The Observer



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