About eight miles from Sheffield in central England, the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham is home to just over 258,000 residents — for comparison, about as many as reside in its transatlantic “twin town,” Buffalo, N.Y.
It’s also home to a local government, child-social-services agency, and police department that effectively countenanced at least 1,400 instances of “child sexual exploitation” (CSE) between 1997 and 2013 — and that is a “conservative” estimate, according to the “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham,” just released by Rotherham’s Metropolitan Borough Council. How could police and local leaders ignore the victimization of so many children? In part, thank political correctness.
Authored by Professor Alexis Jay, an expert and government adviser on social work, the inquiry was based on 988 children known to have been victims of sexual exploitation, defined by the United Kingdom as involving young people under the age of 18 in “exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities.”
Jay and her fellow researchers read 66 case files, some of which remain under investigation. What they discovered were not just instances of all-too-common sexual abuse, but sex trafficking networks, gang rape, and terror:
It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, 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. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.
Reports of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham were known to social workers by the early 1990s, but many of those reports were incorrectly identified as “child prostitution.” Not until 1997, when the Council’s Youth Services launched the Risky Business youth project, did child sexual exploitation become a separate concern. Risky Business aimed to identify persons ages 11 to 25 who might be at risk, often recommending them to children’s social-care agencies, but those agencies were regularly derelict in their duties.
In 2000 a twelve-year-old girl was plied with drugs and raped by five men. The Criminal Investigation Department representative handling her case argued that every incident had been “100% consensual.” Two men who admitted to intercourse with the girl received “police cautions.”
In 2001 a serial predator threatened his victim, a 15-year-old girl, with forced prostitution — then threatened her family, vandalized her home, and used his other victims to assault the girl. She was hospitalized, and members of her family went into hiding. The girl and her mother refused to cooperate with police, convinced that law enforcement was helpless to protect them.
A twelve-year-old girl found in 2008 drunk in the backseat of a vehicle with a suspected predator — who had obscene pictures of the girl on his cell phone — was assessed by local authorities as being at no risk of child sexual exploitation, and her case was closed. “Less than a month later,” the inquiry reports, “she was found in a derelict house with another child, and a number of adult males. She was arrested for being drunk and disorderly (her conviction was later set aside) and none of the males were arrested.”
The consequences of government mismanagement perpetuated the cycle of violence: “One of the children who failed to meet the threshold for social care went on to become a serious sex offender, convicted of the abduction and rape of young girls.”
Many of the victims were not unknown to the system: “In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and child neglect. There was a history of domestic violence in 46% of cases. Truancy and school refusal were recorded in 63% of cases and 63% of children had been reported missing more than once.”
So why did Rotherham fail to protect its children? Consider the background of the perpetrators.
“By far the majority of perpetrators were described as ‘Asian’ by victims,” the inquiry reports — by which they mean members of Great Britain’s “Pakistani-heritage community,” with which Rotherham officials reportedly never engaged “to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue” of child sexual exploitation.