The landmark 153-page report into Rotherham’s 16-year child sexual exploitation scandal included harrowing details of widespread abuse suffered by girls in Rotherham.
Here are some of their stories, that highlight the litany of failures from child protection agencies including Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police. Concerns were raised frequently by the Risky Business youth project, founded in 1997, but ignored or downplayed by council and police chiefs.
Child A (2000)
Just 12 when her risk of sexual exploitation became known. Associating with older Asian men, possibly taking drugs, and had had sex with five adults. Two received police cautions, but the girl continued to go missing. Child protection case conference held, where it was agreed by all Child A should be registered. But the CID representative argued against the term ‘sexual abuse’ being used – he said Child A had been ‘100 per cent consensual’. He was overruled, with all others at the conference demonstrating clear understanding it was a crime. Supported once placed on child protection register.
Child B (2001)
Referred to youth project Risky Business by her school when she was 15. Groomed by an older man involved in exploiting other children – Child B thought he loved her. He trafficked her to Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford and offered her a flat. A child protection referral was made, but the social care case file recorded no response. Within months, Child B and her family were living in fear. The windows of their house were put in, they were threatened she would be forced into prostitution, and she was assaulted by other victims, at the instigation of the perpetrator. Older brother attacked so seriously he had to go to hospital. She too needed hospital treatment for injuries. A younger girl in the family was threatened, and had to go into hiding. Child B and her mother refused to have anything more to do with the police, who could ‘do nothing to protect them’. Child B had petrol poured over her, and was threatened with being set alight. She took overdoses. She and her family were too terrified to make statements. By the time Child B was 18, family situation had broken down and she was homeless. Referred herself to social care, and given benefits advice. No further action taken.
Child C (2002)
Just 14 when sexual exploitation was identified. Referred several times to children’s social care between 2002 and 2004, and described as ‘out of control’. Mother voiced concerns about her being sexually active, going missing, and being plied with drink by older males. The social worker’s assessment was the mother was ‘not able to accept her growing up’.
Child D (2003)
Only 13 when groomed, raped and trafficked by a violent sexual predator. Her parents, Risky Business and Child D all understood the seriousness – but police and children’s social care blamed her, for ‘placing herself at risk of sexual exploitation and danger’. Other than Risky Business, agencies showed no comprehension that she had been groomed.
Child E (2004)
Became looked-after at 12. Had abusive background and parents with mental health problems. Became a victim of child sexual exploitation while in a local children’s unit, where older children introduced younger ones to predatory adult males targeting children’s homes. Sexually exploited by adult males she thought were her boyfriends. Was moved prematurely into semi-independent accommodation, where she became even more at risk.
Child F (2006)
Groomed for sexual exploitation by 27-year-old male when just 13. Subjected to repeated rape and sex assaults by different men, none brought to justice. Repeatedly threatened to kill herself and seriously self-harmed. Social workers, frontline managers and Risky Business workers did help her – she was eventually placed in secure care, supported to return home, and her family moved away.
Child G (2007)
Went missing twice in quick succession aged 14. Referrals made by police to children’s social care but not followed up. Groomed and raped by a predatory male who was later convicted and sentenced. Serious concern she was at risk of suicide around the time of her rape, and by the time of the court case when she was 16.
Child H (2008)
Just 11 when she told police she and another child had been sexually assaulted by adult men. Aged 12, she was found drunk in the back of a car with a man who had indecent photos of her on his phone. Her father provided Risky Business with all the information he could obtain, and who the men were, which was passed to the authorities. The girl was identified as one of nine children associating with a suspected perpetrator. The Chair of a Strategy meeting expressed concern and said she needed a child protection case conference. This was not held. Four months later she was found in a derelict house with another child and several men – and she was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. None of the males were arrested. She later suffered a miscarriage. Her family moved out of the area, and some men were subsequently convicted.
Child I (2009)
Only 11 when she was raped and sexually assaulted. Her attacker was convicted. Her older sister was also a victim. Regularly went missing and subjected to rape and sex assaults by older men. Became looked-after, where she was further abused. Placed out of the area and repeatedly went missing, trying to get back to Rotherham. Suffered post-traumatic stress, self-harmed and became suicidal. Has lasting emotional and psychological damage now.
Child J (2009)
A long history of neglect and child protection. Aged 11 when identified at risk of sexual exploitation, as well as sexual abuse within her family. Older sister a victim too, and the perpetrators were successfully prosecuted. When she was 14 it was suspected she was visiting the homes of adult male strangers, possibly coercing other children to accompany her.
Child K (2011)
Groomed by a known sex offender via Facebook aged 13. Around that time, she required treatment at A&E for being extremely intoxicated. Frequented known hotspots with other young people at risk. Went missing with other children.
Children L and M (2012)
Two young people from an ethnic minority community who were among children at risk of sexual exploitation, investigated by police. A number of children at the same school were reportedly getting into cars with strangers, and being paid for sex acts. They went missing frequently and their families struggled to report them missing – partly because of language difficulties, partly cultural factors. Child Sexual Exploitation team worked to engage with the families, to communicate the risks. Highlights the difficulty of supporting children and their families when there are major language and cultural barriers.
Child N (2013)
Just 12 when extremely indecent images and videos of her found on the phones of fellow pupils. Suspicions older men and a woman had groomed her via Facebook. Family shocked, and co-operated fully with police and the CSE team. But Child N angry at the agencies trying to help her. Showed no understanding of the risks of online contact with strangers and not willing to disclose anything about those who groomed her.
Child O (2013)
Wandered Rotherham, and once found in Sheffield, late at night aged just 13, often with an older girl who was a known victim of sexual exploitation. Very active on social media, with many adult associates she perceived to be ‘friends’. Posted information online about a video of another child being sexually assaulted. The perpetrator made contact with her and she was beaten up. Remained secretive about who she had been with.