Report finds 1,400 children sexually exploited in northern English city

‘Collective’ fault cited in rapes, violence over a 16-year span

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LONDON — About 1,400 chil­dren were sex­u­ally ex­ploited in a north­ern En­gland town, a re­port con­cluded Tues­day in a damn­ing ac­count of “col­lec­tive fail­ures” by au­thor­i­ties to pre­vent vic­tims as young as 11 from be­ing beaten, raped and traf­ficked over a 16-year pe­riod.

Re­port au­thor Alexis Jay cited ap­pall­ing acts of vi­o­lence be­tween 1997 and 2013 in Rother­ham, a city of some 250,000.

The in­de­pen­dent re­port came af­ter a se­ries of con­vic­tions of sex­ual pred­a­tors in the re­gion and ground-break­ing re­ports in the Times of Lon­don.

Read­ing de­scrip­tions of the abuse makes it hard to imag­ine that noth­ing was done for so long. The re­port de­scribed rapes by mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors, mainly from Brit­ain’s Paki­stani com­mu­nity, and how chil­dren were traf­ficked to other towns and cit­ies in the north of En­gland, ab­ducted, beaten and in­tim­i­dated.

“There were ex­am­ples of chil­dren who had been doused in pet­rol and threat­ened with be­ing set alight, threat­ened with guns, made to wit­ness bru­tally vi­o­lent rapes and threat­ened they would be next if they told any­one,” Ms. Jay said. “Girls as young as 11 were raped by large num­bers of male per­pe­tra­tors.”

The re­port’s au­thor did not re­lease the iden­ti­ties of the chil­dren, but of­fered a gen­eral de­scrip­tion of the cases show­ing that the vic­tims were be­tween 11 and 16 years old. Most, but not all, were girls preyed upon by un­re­lated older men.

A sam­pling of case stud­ies showed that the vic­tims first came into con­tact with au­thor­i­ties for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing be­ing re­ported miss­ing from their homes, leav­ing school with un­known men or as stalk­ing vic­tims. While most vic­tims in the older cases were de­scribed as “white Brit­ish chil­dren,” the re­port said that more re­cently, a greater num­ber of cases were com­ing from the grow­ing Paki­stani, Kash­miri and Roma com­mu­ni­ties.

At­ten­tion first fell on Rother­ham in 2010, when five men re­ceived lengthy jail terms af­ter con­vic­tions for groom­ing teens for sex. A se­ries of other high-pro­file cases fea­tur­ing Paki­stani rings also emerged in Roch­dale, Derby and Ox­ford— and com­mu­ni­ties be­gan to look more closely at their child sex-ex­ploitation cases. Rother­ham de­cided to con­duct a for­mal in­quiry, and Ms. Jay, a for­mer chief so­cial work ad­viser to the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment, was ap­pointed to in­ves­ti­gate. But she told the BBC that she was “very shocked” by what she found.

Even though ear­lier re­ports de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion in Rother­ham, the first of these re­ports was “ef­fec­tively sup­pressed” be­cause se­nior of­fi­cers did not be­lieve the data. “The col­lec­tive fail­ures of po­lit­i­cal and of­fi­cer lead­er­ship were bla­tant,” Ms. Jay said. “From the be­gin­ning, there was grow­ing ev­i­dence that child sex­ual ex­ploitation was a se­ri­ous prob­lem in Rother­ham.”

Com­pli­cat­ing the re­port­ing was the fact that vic­tims de­scribed the per­pe­tra­tors as “Asian,” and yet the coun­cil failed to en­gage with the town’s Paki­stani com­mu­nity. “Sev­eral staff de­scribed their ner­vous­ness about iden­ti­fy­ing the eth­nic or­i­gins of per­pe­tra­tors for fear of be­ing thought rac­ist; oth­ers re­mem­bered clear di­rec­tion from their man­ag­ers not to do so,” Ms. Jay said.

Rother­ham has had its prob­lems even be­fore Tues­day’s re­port. It has seen the loss of tra­di­tional in­dus­tries from the 19th and 20th cen­tu­ries, and, though the lo­cal econ­omy has grown re­cently, it is also marked by depri­va­tion and high un­em­ploy­ment.

“It is hard to imag­ine the dam­age caused to vic­tims who were preyed upon with al­most im­pu­nity over many years, be­cause of a re­luc­tance to com­pre­hend or ad­dress what was widely hap­pen­ing,” said John Cameron, head of the help­line for the Na­tional So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to Chil­dren.

The lo­cal coun­cil leader, Roger Stone, re­signed im­me­di­ately.

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s Down­ing Street of­fice said the les­sons of past fail­ures must be learned and those who ex­ploited the chil­dren brought to justice.

england - london - Europe - Western Europe - United Kingdom - David Cameron - United Kingdom government - Roger Stone


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