As someone who likes to keep up to date with the latest news and developments, I see and hear a lot of stories that make me question humanity and take a step back in disbelief.
One story that has stayed with me and never fails to get me worked up is that of the Rochdale sex trafficking gang.
For those who are unfamiliar with this case, it involved a group of twelve men (possibly more), who groomed underage girls for sex. 47 girls were identified as victims, with the youngest being only 13 years old.
Just last month a similar case in Oxford was uncovered involving 7 men convicted of grooming and sexually exploiting girls as young as 11.
It saddens and sickens me that those in a position of trust and a position of authority took so long to intervene. It is critical that when these cases come about and an accusation is made that they are dealt with seriously regardless of the victims background or history. In cases where a minor (anyone under 16) is making an accusation against an adult, then I believe it should be protocol to start an investigation and the necessary agencies informed.
A lot of the time the reason these victims are preyed upon by their abusers, is because they are young and vulnerable. Easily influenced and easily misled. They are often from broken homes, and dysfunctional families. The men in these gangs exploit the girls need to feel like they belong and their need to feel loved, grooming them over prolonged periods of time, offering them promises they have no intention to fulfill. Many of the girls in the Rochdale case were living in care and well-known to the authorities and social services. One of the questions being asked should be, how were this gang able to operate for so long without any of the services who were there to protect the girls finding out. Why were no questions asked when the girls spent days away from their care homes without any contact. Why did no one raise the alarm?
The saddest part about this story is that on several occasions the girls involved had gone to police to tell them what was going on but no further action was taken. Instead of being taken seriously the girls who did come forward were ignored by police and child protection services put their claims down to ‘risky behaviour on the part of the child’. Several of the accusations were passed on to the crown prosecution service but they did not prosecute because they did not believe a jury would find the victims ‘credible’. Some of the victims were even threatened with being reprimanded for ‘wasting police time’.
If police, social services and other services which are there to prevent and protect our children and vulnerable adults from being exploited and abused are not willing to listen to those who are vulnerable and at risk due to ‘realiabilty’ then what message does that give to other potential victims. Who else are the victims of these gangs to turn to if the services which should be protecting them are reluctant to get involved. These girls endured months and even years of abuse from these vile men. Men who set out to demolish all their confidence and destroy all their dignity and self esteem. Making them believe they are worthless and nothing more than used goods, so to be further accused by the authorities of being unreliable and putting themselves at risk reinforces the beliefs that the abusers installed into the girls thus further alienating the victims.
This isn’t the first and certainly wont be the last we hear about the protection services failing to do their job. The police, social services, local authorities and any other agency that comes into contact with the young, and vulnerable adults all have a duty of care they must adhere to. What I want to know, is why they are failing to meet this duty of care. We as the public are being let down time and time again at the expense of those who are most vulnerable and at risk.
The bottom line is that the victims of these sex trafficking gangs were failed. The authorities made crucial mistakes that can never be undone. Because of the incompetency, neglect and lack of communication between the services involved these girls will forever have to live the rest of their lives with the horrendous scars both physical and mental that these men have left behind. Until something is done to ensure the right measures are put into place, to ensure that every case is dealt with effectively and efficiently then unfortunately, I have no doubt that this certainly wont be the last we hear of more gangs like these being slowly uncovered, as we begin to find out the true extent of the incompetency of the services which are meant to be there to protect us.