It was described as ‘a horrific catalogue of protracted and highly organised sexual abuse’. Between 1997 and 2013, over 1,400 children in Rotherham were regularly sexually exploited, raped and trafficked by gangs of men of Pakistani heritage. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. Children were doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight. They were threatened with guns, plied with drugs and made to witness brutally violent rapes. Girls as young as 11 were trafficked to houses and raped by large numbers of men in one night. I
For too long, nothing was done. In just over a third of cases, children affected by sexual exploitation were previously known to social services because of child protection and neglect, but not enough effort was made to keep them safe. Even worse, some members of South Yorkshire Police contemptuously regarded many child victims as consenting prostitutes. The social care assessment for one 13 year old child blamed her for ‘placing herself at risk of sexual exploitation and danger’. Another child who reported a brutal rape to the police was told they could do nothing since the incident had happened two weeks before.
The European Convention requires that all states conduct an independent investigation into incidences of abuse. So, the Jay Report was released in 2014 and documented the full extent of the Rotherham abuses, as well as the passive attitudes of those who should have been able to help. It concluded that ‘no one could say “We didn’t know”’.
The Jay Report’s revelations, while agonizing, have also helped to ensure that Rotherham’s police and social services implement changes so that something like this never goes uninvestigated again. While it was too late to undo the terrible damage that had occurred to the 1,400 children, inquiries made as a result of human rights law holds states accountable and will help to prevent future cases of abuse.