In Rotherham

I’m reading the BBC live summary of the Rotherham report. It’s horrifying.

14:01: Evidence of the “appalling” abuse of at least 1,400 children in Rotherham, South Yorkshire over 16 years has been laid bare in a new report.
14:01: The inquiry was carried out by Professor Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work in Scotland.
14:02: Her independent inquiry into how social services in Rotherham dealt with allegations of child sex abuse between 1997 and 2013 found girls as young as 11 were raped multiple times, trafficked to other towns and cities, beaten and doused in petrol.
14:04: The report, which has been published in the last few minutes, says: “The police and the council both failed in their duties to protect some of the most vulnerable children in the borough.”

And yet, they don’t work for the Vatican.

14:08: In the report, Prof Jay highlights a “collective failure” by the authorities to stop the abuse.
14:08: It also notes a “clear evidence of child sexual exploitation being disbelieved, suppressed or ignored”.
14:10: The report was commissioned by Rotherham Council in 2013. It followed the jailing of five men from Rotherham for sexual offences against girls in 2010.
14:11: Rotherham Council is expected to respond to the report later. Last year, the council’s chief executive, Martin Kimber, apologised to victims who had been “let down” by its “systemic failure”.
14:12: The inquiry found that a report highlighting the abuse was submitted to the police and the council in 2002, but “was effectively suppressed”.

Suppressed. So the Rotherham police and council acted like the Vatican even though they don’t work for the Vatican.

14:16: Councillors and council officials were told about the abuse in 2004 and 2005 “in the most explicit terms”, the report found. But it highlighted evidence of a “macho, sexist and bullying culture” within the council, which stopped it providing an effective response.
14:17: The report found that no priority was given by South Yorkshire Police to the issue of child sexual exploitation.
14:18: The 1,400 victims identified in the report include both girls and a small number of boys, Prof Jay clarifies in response to one question.
14:21: Prof Jay says there was evidence that senior people in the council and police wanted to “play down” the “ethnic dimensions” of the sexual exploitation for fear of being regarded as racist.

Macho, sexist, bullying, and anti-racist – or not anti-racist but unwilling to be regarded as racist. Impressive.

From the report:

Executive Summary:

No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.

In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to services because of child protection and neglect. 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.

And it was all just buried.


  1. Al Dente says

    The inquiry found that a report highlighting the abuse was submitted to the police and the council in 2002, but “was effectively suppressed”.

    This shows gross incompetence by the police and social services, willful blindness by the council, and total disregard for the welfare of children on the part of everyone concerned. Legal proceedings should be taken against the council and senior police officials.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    All I know about Yorkshire has to do with yappy little mop-dogs, but somehow I wonder if Rotheram stands alone in such systematized abuse.

    Do Scotland Yard, MI-5, or other agencies have the power to investigate multiple municipalities?

  3. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Pierce R Butler:

    Do Scotland Yard, MI-5, or other agencies have the power to investigate multiple municipalities?

    The met/Scotland Yard doesn’t have such a remit. However the IPCC does, if I’m understanding you correctly as wishing to investigate the municipalities themselves.

    if you mean investigate private actors within multiple municipalities in geographically separate regions, the NCA is probably the closest bet.

    But again, my understanding of law enforcement’s relationship to federalism in the UK is limited.

  4. Shatterface says

    All I know about Yorkshire has to do with yappy little mop-dogs, but somehow I wonder if Rotheram stands alone in such systematized abuse.

    No, there was Rochdale, Telford, Derby and Oxford too.

  5. Maureen Brian says

    And guess what row is going on the Today Programme right now? The one about whether it would be fair for current-Councillor A to express an opinion on ex-Councillor B, then in charge of children’s services now the police and crime commissioner.

    Also, whether the Councillors past and present should be getting together to work out how the fuck they didn’t know about this and/or why the ones who did kept quiet about it.

    The blustering Councillor A thinks not in both cases. A bloke living up to the stereotype! (And that we are allowed to point out.)

  6. sonofrojblake says

    The English Defence League held a march in Oldham (another northern town about 40m from Rotherham) in 2011. One of the banners held up by one of the marchers said “Open your eyes for your children’s sake”. One of the marchers, a young skinhead, was interviewed on video. He was clearly intoxicated and inarticulate, but, amidst rambling talk about wanting “Britain to be about British”, he made a point (poorly) about Muslim rape gangs. Everyone knew this was going on, but because racists were complaining about it, if you complained about it, you were a racist… right? And those Muslim rape gangs, oh, they were so funny, weren’t they? Let’s make a funny video about the stupid white man who can’t even say “Muslim” or “Islamic” without conflating them into one word, or get the words “rape gangs” out without it sounding like “ray guns”. Let’s caption it “Funny”, it’ll get over a million views on Youtube. Nasty racists!

    Doesn’t seem quite as funny today, does it?

    Note: I’m not endorsing the EDL. But it was the panicked effort to make sure they didn’t look like they were on the same side as the EDL in ANY WAY (even if what the EDL were saying about Muslim rape gangs was true) that, in part, led the council and the police to what’s described in this report.

  7. resident_alien says

    What slays me (besides the horrific crimes committed against children) is that commentators of various shades of right-wingness now blame the the failure of the authorities on “left-wing political correctness” rather than sexism, rape culture and the pervasive attitude that children’s complaints (especiallly female children’s – whiny,attention-seeking, over-dramatising brats,amirite?) are to be disbelieved and dismissed. To me, that whole “We didn’t want to look like racists” babble sound like a pathetic excuse.Since when do authorities hesitate to hassle people on the wrong side of beige? Saville,Harris et al are/were whitebread though and through, their victims were dismissed and disbelieved as well – for decades!

  8. Dan says

    Rotherham is my home town. I was there today and watched the Sky News helicopter hover overhead. What we’ve learned from this is horrifying.

    But the media are running with the race angle (or, the wrong race angle), thereby smothering other important issues.

    The report finds no evidence that the lack of action was down to fear of being thought of as racist, though it notes this perception. Nor does the report provide any support for the racist/xenophobic narrative that white girls were targeted by Asian/Muslim men because of some inherent hatred or contempt of the latter by the former in a kind of deliberate campaign or religious/cultural war.

    There was a downplaying of the ethnicity of the perpetrators, which contributed to the invisibility and denial of abuse within the “Asian” communities (already underreported – but it’s clear that Asian girls were also victims, as you would expect) and the perception that abuse was a whites-only problem. Pakistani-background and other women’s groups in the town complained about that, and the tendency for the authorities to communicate via male-dominated religious/community structures. That’s serious in itself, but it’s not the ethnicity angle the media are presenting. “Political correctness” did not prevent the offenders being brought to justice; nobody said, “better not pursue this in case someone thinks I’m racist” or “Asian men are off-limits”. The report is clear that the inquiry found no individual cases which were affected by such considerations. But the policy of downplaying ethnicity in order to avoid inflaming community tensions (misjudged because, well, we’re there anyway now) had the effect of maintaining the conspiracy of silence about the abuse of Asian girls (abuse victims usually know their victims, so if you’ve got “Asian gangs” “targeting” “vulnerable white girls”, you better also look closer to home). That’s the real race angle, but it’s not the headline the media want, which is “anti-racism let child abusers go free”.

    What we’re not hearing so much about, because it’s not as comfortable for the media to talk about as “political correctness” is the fact that the (mainly white, of course) police often regarded the victims as willing participants – as effectively prostitutes (and of course we know how misogynists regard prostitutes). That they were underage appears not to have been significant. The police often refused to take action, or indeed the report records occasions when it was the victims (or those trying to help them) who were punished. Of course, the worst of the British media have been complicit in this stereotyping of young girls (let alone actual prostitutes) too: look at the coverage of any attacks on prostitutes or other “undeserving” women or girls – they “asked for it” is still a common trope. We shouldn’t let them get away with that while whipping up a race war.

    The report is also clear that some agencies/professionals did a lot to draw attention to the seriousness of the problem. But they were not believed, or dismissed as troublemakers, or the seriousness was diminished and held not to be a priority. In addition to underresourcing, there were lots of other managerial and leadership problems. The extent of sexual exploitation of young girls was regarded as an exaggeration or as just a question of the girls being “out of control”.

    What Rotherham needs is for the right heads to roll and proper strategies being put in place. What it doesn’t need is the pseudo-narrative about “political correctness” to bolster a racist strategy of tension, while leaving unremarked the remarkable consilience of perceptions about the girls in question between offenders and police and other authorities.


  9. sonofrojblake says

    that whole “We didn’t want to look like racists” babble sound like a pathetic excuse

    Absolutely right. While that was definitely a factor, a much bigger one is the inherent misogyny and ass-covering closed-ranks of the bureaucratic culture, the massively greater misogyny and ass-covering closed ranks of the Muslim Pakistani culture from which these criminals came, and the interactions between those two groups.

    Samira Ahmed in the Guardian made the point that the media are making this about race or gender, when it’s not that simple.


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