The leader of Rotherham Council has resigned following the publication of a report revealing widespread child abuse in the South Yorkshire town.
As many as 1,400 girls were sexually and physically abused by gangs over a 15 year period. Some were even abducted and trafficked to other cities, The Times reports. The abuse included children as young as 11.
According to the independent report, which followed a year-long enquiry, the gangs were almost entirely made of up of men from a Pakistani background. They were allowed to continue their activities with little intervention by the authorities, the paper suggests, with social workers and other frontline professionals afraid to focus on the ethnic background of the perpetrators because this might damage community relations.
Council leader Roger Stone offered his “heartfelt apologies” along with his resignation. However, to date no one working in a senior managerial position at the council when the abuse was at its height has been disciplined, according to The Times.
Youth workers submitted research on three separate occasions – in 2002, 2003 and 2006 – highlighting their concern over the abuse but none of their reports were followed up by managers.
In 2012, confidential documents also came to light highlighting the failure of local authorities in the area to prosecute individuals for child abuse.
The newly published report, entitled Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013), cites a widespread belief amongst many frontline professionals “that some senior people in the council and the police wanted to play down the ethnic dimension”.
The report was written by former senior social worker Alexis Jay. She said:
“I was told that some elected members seemed to be in denial about the issue and refused to believe that such a thing could happen in Rotherham.”
There can be no question that this scandal is a shameful indictment of not only of the perpetrators of the abuse but also of the authorities who are charged with protecting vulnerable children. It is yet another example of a lack of joined-up thinking and action by the Police, local authorities, social services and health workers and lessons need to be learned to prevent a repeat of these tragic events.
The abuse of vulnerable children and people, whether the abuse is of a sexual nature, physical, emotional or otherwise, is rampant throughout the world and Government agencies need to re-think their approach to stamping it out.
We need to focus on the effects of such abuse on the victims and how their lives are shaped as a result of the abuse they have suffered. Each and every victim is likely to be severely traumatised and usually ashamed and embarrassed, particularly if the abuse takes the form of sexual abuse. It will affect them for the rest of their lives and they may never recover. They will need sensitive and empathetic counselling and a lot of support. We must be alive to the reality that when they themselves become adults, and potentially parents, their experiences will shape the way they parent and steps need to be taken when dealing with victims that such behaviour is not normalised, sothat they themselves become abusers.
Every one of us has a right to dignity and respect and this is enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and its various articles.
In some cases victims may be able to seek compensation against authorities that have failed to protect them in circumstances where they were under a duty so to do. These cases have spawned a growth in child abuse compensation claims.
Professionals working with vulnerable children need to be trained to listen more carefully when complaints are made and must take those complaints seriously and then action them. It takes great courage to come forward and make a complaint but for this to be ignored only adds insult to injury for the victim.
Every effort must be made to protect children and young people from such ruinous abuse as they will be the adults of the future. Government and all organisations with an interest need to sit down and consider how children and young people can be better protected from what can only be described as a worldwide epidemic.