How Fear of Being Seen as Racist Stopped Social Workers Saving up to 1,400 Children from Sexual Exploitation at the Hands of Asian Men in Just One Town
Mia de Graaf and Amanda Williams, Daily Mail (London), August 26, 2014
The sexual abuse of about 1,400 children at the hands of Asian men went unreported for 16 years because staff feared they would be seen as racist, a report said today.
Children as young as 11 were trafficked, beaten, and raped by large numbers of men between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the council commissioned review into child protection revealed.
And shockingly, more than a third of the cases were already known to agencies.
But according to the report’s author: ‘several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist’.
Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the report, condemned the ‘blatant’ collective failures by the council’s leadership, concluding: ‘It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered.’
The landmark report which exposed widespread failures of the council, police and social services revealed:
- Victims were doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, terrorised with guns, made to witness brutally-violent rapes and told they would be the next if they spoke out;
- They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated;
- One victim described gang rape as ‘a way of life’;
- Police ‘regarded many child victims with contempt’;
- Some fathers tried to rescue their children from abuse but were arrested themselves;
- The approximate figure of 1,400 abuse victims is likely to be a conservative estimate of the true scale of abuse.
The lack of reports was partly down to a fear of being racist, Prof Jay wrote, as the majority of the perpetrators were described as ‘Asian men’, and many were said to be of Pakistani origin.
One young person told the inquiry that ‘gang rape’ was a usual part of growing up in the area of Rotherham where she lived.
In two cases, fathers had tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused–only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene.
And one child declined her initial offer to give a statement after allegedly receiving a text from a perpetrator threatening to harm her younger sister.
The failures happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 ‘which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham’.
Prof Jay said the first of these reports was ‘effectively suppressed’ because senior officers did not believe the data.
The other two were ignored, the professor said.
Fears had also been raised by schools over the 16 years but the alerts went uninvestigated.
Teachers reported seeing children as young as 11, 12 and 13 being picked up outside schools by cars and taxis, given presents and mobile phones and taken to meet large numbers of unknown men in Rotherham or other local towns and cities.
The majority of victims believed the perpetrators to be their boyfriend who gave them gifts, alcohol and drugs. Some of the victims still maintain they were not groomed or abused.
Analysing the case studies, Prof Jay said many of the children came from dysfunctional families, had parents with addictions, and had suffered domestic or sexual abuse as a child.
Some had serious mental health problems.
Councillors seemed to dismiss previous reports as a one-off problem which they hoped would go away, according to Prof Jay.
She said: ‘Others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.’
The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as ‘sexual predators’, were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
The five men–Umar Razaq, Adil Hussain, Razwan Razaq, Zafran Ramzan, and Mohsin Khan–preyed on their victims over several months and threatened them with violence if they refused their advances.
One of the men branded his victim a ‘white bitch’ when she resisted, while a second smirked: ‘I’ve used you and abused you.’
The men, all British-born Pakistanis, attacked the four girls in play areas, parks and in the back of their cars, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
They gave them gifts and introduced them to their friends. The girls were abused so frequently that after many months it ‘became a way of life’.
The girls, who were being monitored by social services, were eventually rescued by police and removed from their homes amid growing concerns for their safety.
The leader of Rotherham Council, Roger Stone, has today quit in light of the findings. He has led the council since 2003.
The current Police Commissioner for South Yorkshire is Shaun Wright, who was widely criticised for failing to tackle sex abuse in Rotherham during his five-year stint in the council’s children and young people’s department.
From 2005 to 2010, Cllr Wright was in charge of children’s services in the borough and worked closely with Joyce Thacker, who became Director of Children’s Services in 2008.
The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last four years that have revealed the exploitation of young girls in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.
Following the 2010 case, The Times claimed that details from 200 restricted-access documents showed how police and child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town had extensive knowledge of these activities for a decade, yet a string of offences went unprosecuted.
The allegations led to a range of official investigations, including one by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, called the report ‘utterly devastating’ and praised the victims for coming forward.
She said: ‘Their bravery in coming forward to give evidence to this inquiry is truly admirable. We can only hope this will help to protect other children from abuse in the future.
”That is why it is urgent that the Government gets the overarching inquiry into child abuse up and running. We need this to focus on gaps in the current child protection system, as well as historic child abuse.’
Last year, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright said there had been ‘a failure of management’ at South Yorkshire Police as he responded to a report into his force on this issue by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
Rotherham child sex victim, 15, doused in petrol and threatened with fire after she was trafficked to three different cities
One victim of child sex abuse in Rotherham was trafficked for sex to Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield by the time she was 15-years-old and was doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight.
The girl, referred to only as Child B in today’s report, was threatened with being forced into prostitution, her older sibling was taken to hospital, and the windows of their house were shattered.
The report said she was ‘groomed by an older man involved in the exploitation of other children’.
The report said: ‘Child B loved this man. He trafficked her to Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield and offered to provide her with a flat in one of those cities.
‘A child protection referral was made but the social care case file recorded no response to this.’
The report detailed how ‘within just a few months Child B and her family were living in fear of their lives’.
The report said: ‘Child B and her mother refused to have anything more to do with the police because they believed the police could do nothing to protect them.’
It added: ‘Child B had been stalked and had petrol poured over her head and was threatened with being set alight.
‘She took overdoses. She and her family were too terrified to make statements to the police.’
The report said the teenager was homeless by the time she was 18.
It concluded: ‘She referred herself to children’s social care and was given advice about benefits. No further action was taken. This child and her family were completely failed by all services with the exception of Risky Business (a local support group).’
A girl referred to as Child D was 13 when she was groomed, raped and trafficked by a violent sexual predator in the town.
‘Police and children’s social care were ineffective and seemed to blame the child,’ the report said.
It said: ‘An initial assessment accurately described the risks to Child D but appeared to blame her for “placing herself at risk of sexual exploitation and danger”.’
And the report concluded: ‘Other than Risky Business, agencies showed no comprehension that she had been groomed at 13, that she was terrified of the perpetrators, and that her attempts to placate them were themselves a symptom of the serious emotional harm that child sexual exploitation had caused her.’
[Editor’s Note: Photos of some of the perps are available at the original article link below.]