When a researcher in the United Kingdom’s Home Office reported to Rotherham authorities in 2002 that 270 girls had been sexually exploited in the previous year, primarily by British Pakistani men, she was assigned to a two-day “diversity and ethnicity class.” That is the report from BBC’s Panorama, a U.K. investigative current-affairs program, which devoted its most recent segment to the recent report that more than 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, were victims of sexual exploitation from 1997 to 2013. The researcher spoke on condition of anonymity.
The researcher encountered victims of sexual exploitation through Risky Business, a youth outreach organization set up by the local government. Shocked by the graphic reports she heard, the research began “collecting data on who the perpetrators were, what cars they were using, their grooming methods, their offending methods, and what I was also collecting was information on professional responses,” she told Panorama’s Alison Holt.
But when she informed local council members of her findings, she was astonished by the response:
“They said you must never refer to that again, you must never refer to Asian men,” she said.
“And [the] other response was to book me on a two-day ethnicity and diversity course to raise my awareness of ethnic issues.”
The researcher also says that before her report could be published, someone stole her data from her office. Because there was no evidence of a break-in, she says the thief must have been a council employee. The report was never published, Holt reports, “and the council even tried unsuccessfully to get the researcher sacked.”
“I was subjected to the most intense personal hostility,” says the researcher. “There were threats made from a range of sources. I’ve never seen back-covering like it, and I still feel extremely angry about that.”
Professor Alexis Jay, who authored the bombshell report released late last month, says that the researcher “was punished for speaking truth to power.”
This incident confirms what Jay reported — that because most victims identified Pakistani abusers, authorities were unwilling to investigate aggressively for fear of being considered racist — but goes even further: If the researcher’s claims are true, local authorities knowingly suppressed evidence of child sexual exploitation, perhaps going so far as to destroy it outright, and thereby enabled another decade of abuse.