1,400 children exploited in UK town
Updated: 2014-08-28 07:02
By Associated Press in London(China Daily)
Rape, beatings took place from 1997 to 2013
About 1,400 children were sexually exploited in a northern England town, a report concluded on 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 from 1997 to 2013 in Rotherham, a city of about 250,000. The independent report came after a series of convictions of sexual predators in the region and groundbreaking reports in the Times of London.
Reading descriptions of the abuse make 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," Jay said. "Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators."
The report's author took great pains to make sure the identities of the children were not revealed, but offered a general description of the cases showing the victims were between 11 and 16 years old. Most, but not all, were girls, who are preyed upon by unrelated older men.
A sampling of case studies showed 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 victims of stalking. While most of the 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 of 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 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.
Police "regarded many child victims with contempt", Jay said, adding that many of the children were known to child protection agencies. 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," 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.
"Some councilors think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away," Jay said. "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."
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.
British Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office said that the lessons of past failures must be learned and those who exploited the children brought to justice.
"This damning report shows the full extent of how the children of Rotherham were let down," said Keith Vaz, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. "They will never get their childhoods back."
(China Daily 08/28/2014 page11)