Racialising the Rotherham scandal fails all abuse victims

The report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham is a disorientating and disturbing 160-page read. A failure of leadership, mixed with a culture of disbelief, and an organisational fear of being thought racist partly enabled abuse.

Certain tabloid front pages read, ‘Betrayed by the PC Cowards’ and ‘1,400 victims of the PC Brigade’ but that narrow focus overlooks a host of other critical failures.

In a more desperate example of trolling, some tried pin the abuse on “a uniquely Muslim cultural phenomenon”. In an effort to prove this theory, Milo Yiannopoulos linked to a report titled “Easy Meat: Multiculturalism, Islam and Child Sex Slavery” from the Law and Freedom Foundation – infamous for their ideologically driven mosque busting. Muslim victims are ignored as the focus is placed upon white and Sikh victims. Cheap point scoring undermines the actual contents of the report.

On the issues of ethnicity, the report stressed, “There is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation, and across the UK the greatest numbers of perpetrators of CSE are white men.”

A vast majority of known perpetrators in Rotherham were of Pakistani heritage, but their motivations point towards power and not religious motivation.

The victims were picked not for their skin colour but vulnerability. The report noted:

“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.”

The poor and troubled upbringing of many victims meant police and social workers viewed some with snobbish contempt. In one instance, “The police had responded reluctantly to missing person reports, as a ‘waste of time’. Some young women had been threatened with arrest for wasting police time.” Female victims became “promiscuous” and “deviant”.

Some victims experienced sexual abuse at a young age and had a “desperate need for attention and affection”. The perpetrators targeted children’s residential units, schools, and those leaving the care system.

A textbook example of grooming included offering victims drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis), rides in cars and gifts. Rape and hard drugs became another form of control. In 2004 and 2005, presentations to councillors and other relevant bodies found that 55 per cent of victims had used heroin at least once per week. Abusers created a culture of silence with threats of extreme violence. Certain examples included “children doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, or threatened with guns”. Post-abuse support for victims was woefully inadequate.

One local Pakistani women’s group noted how taxi drivers and older men targeted Pakistani-heritage girls. Other examples included Pakistani landlords befriending Pakistani women and girls for sex, before passing on their details to others. Many avoided informing the police because it would “affect their future marriage prospects”.

Agency reliance upon male community leaders “disenfranchised” many Pakistani-heritage women who viewed it as another barrier to reporting abuse.

In 2003, a different report noted that the local Asian community rarely spoke about the perpetrators – partly out of taboo and fear of violence -many of the abusers were believed to be involved in larger scale criminal activities (including drug dealing, gun crime and robbery).

Victims of Pakistani-heritage suffered in plain sight. Nor were they encouraged or empowered by the relevant authorities to report abuse. At a senior level, Pakistani-heritage councillors faced accusations of preventing a more open discussion on the issue.

As a result, the report recommended immediate dialogue with minority communities (especially the Pakistani-heritage community) on this issue. The recommendation stated:

“This should be done in consultation with local women’s groups, and should develop strategies that support young women and girls from the community to participate without fear or threat.”

In recent years, each local mosque appointed a person responsible for child protection, and training was provided to imams and others. The chair of the Rotherham Council of Mosques made strides to improve female representation on his council.

In a press release, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) condemned the crimes: “Those who carried out these acts are nothing more than criminals. Criminals reject the teachings of all religions, and the issue here should not be on race or religion. No faith, and no culture would condone such activities.”

Racialising abuse stories undermines the support victims must receive regardless of background.