In Rotherham, a city of more than 200,000 in the north of England, a shocking child sex abuse scandal erupted Tuesday, with the release of a report saying that about 1,400 young girls, some as young as 11 years old, were abused by local sex-trafficking gangs there for 16 years, from 1997 to 2013.
But almost equally shocking, the report says that police and social workers knew about the abuse but ignored it, fearful of stirring up racial tensions in Rotherham — because almost all of the sex-abuse gang members were of Pakistani origin, while the victims were predominantly young white girls.
According to the report authored by former chief social work inspector Alexis Jay, hundreds of the girls were raped, brutalized, beaten and trafficked throughout the region. In some instances, children were drenched with gasoline and told they would be set ablaze if they told anyone about the sex abuse they suffered, while others were threatened with guns or forced to watch violent rapes of other girls, again accompanied by threats against revealing the horrific crimes.
The girls were often “raped by large numbers of men,” Jay’s report said.
That Rotherham had become a center for child sex abuse gangs was not a new revelation. At least three previous reports, between 2002 and 2006, “could not have been clearer” in describing the massive child sex abuse problem in Rotherham, Jay wrote. But those reports, she said, were either “suppressed” or “ignored.”
Jay also blasted the “blatant” failure of the local Rotherham government to do anything about the child sex ring. The leader of Rothetham’s local council, Roger Stone, resigned Tuesday almost immediately after Jay’s report was made public.
Local Members of Parliament and charity workers demanded a criminal investigation into the police cover-up of the continual child sex abuse, as detailed in the report, which said that police and social workers swept the sex abuse charges under the rug in order to protect “community cohesion.”
Many of the victims detailed in the report suffered devastating and permanent trauma from their abuse, which involved repeated rapes by multiple adult men, including one who attempted to throw herself in front of a moving train, and many others who also became suicidal, developed psychotic episodes, and became unable to care for themselves.
In 2010 some light was shed on the depth of the abuse when five men in Rotherham were convicted of “grooming” underage girls for sexual exploitation. London’s Times newspaper then reported the existence of 200 secret documents that detailed police and social services knowledge of the sex crimes reaching back at least 10 years.
Also in 2010, a 17-year-old Rotherham teen mom, Laura Wilson (pictured above left), was murdered by 18-year-old Ashtiaq Asghar after she told the families of two men who had sexually abused her what they had done. Asghar, who is now serving a life sentence, stabbed Wilson and threw her body into a canal, as retribution for “shaming” the two families.
The Rotherham sex abuse report is filled with shocking and depressing details, such as one incident in which a married dad-of-two, Arshid Hussain, was caught by police with a semi-nude teenage girl hidden under his bed. But police arrested the girl and let Hussain walk free.