Rotherham

1,400 girls have been abused while their town looked away.

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Clifton Park, where many children were groomed and raped.

Having grown up In Rotherham and Barnsley, I was shocked and saddened to read the revelations of the Alexis-Jay Report. In the space of ten years over 1,400 young boys and girls were groomed and sexually abused in Rotherham alone. Many of the children were as young as 11 when the abuse began and were abused in public places.  The very institutions put in place to protect these children failed drastically to the point of aiding the perpetrators, many young boys and girls were blamed for being abused, ultimately allowing the perpetrators to act with impunity.

There are allegations that Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police had a policy of deliberately ignoring the rape of young children in Rotherham. Some suggest this was to avoid using resources on people not valued within society. Retired social workers and police officers have reported the widespread use of the term “S.O.S” (scum on scum) being used by South Yorkshire Police to define crimes committed within the most vulnerable sections of society. “There is a belief that people who were being exploited were asking for it.” Said retired Social worker John.

With more allegations of corruption and a clear lack of transparency and responsibility from the authorities it has allowed far right extremists to exploit the issue to further grow their street groups. Welcome to Rotherham, a town grappling with issues of corruption, incompetence, xenophobia, misogyny and poverty.

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“Jessica”, poses for an anonymous portrait after sharing her story.

“Jessica”, not her real name, was just 14 when she fell in love with Arshid, or “Mad Ash” to his friends. Ten years older than her, he was very tenderly and kind when they first got together. He gained Jessica’s trust and she saw him as a friend. “I felt, ‘I like him, I want to be with him’, but my parents were saying it was wrong, he was too old.”

Four months later things changed, Ash would get abusive and threaten her if she would not do as he says. “I remember one time we were fighting on a hill and he headbutted me. I wasn’t scared at all in the moment, because I was so used to the fighting and the arguments. It just became so normal.”

She first became pregnant at 14, but could not keep the baby, she then fell pregnant again at 15 but decided to keep the child. Jess soon learned that ash was not only with her but with many other girls, much of the abuse taking part in public.

Social services were aware of Ash and suspected him to be part of a group of men that had abused as many as 40 girls, however despite numerous people coming forward, nothing was done to stop the abuse.

Jessica’s parents were aware of the abuse but felt as though the town of Rotherham had turned their back on her. Jessica’s father Paul, also not his real name, said he went to the police four times to report the abuse.

“I couldn’t prove she was sleeping with them,” he said. “Their attitude was, ‘if she’s knocking about with them they must be little slappers, let them get on with it. What do you want us to do’.

“In the end, one of the guys at the police station in Rotherham told me if I didn’t clear off I’d be arrested. I wasn’t getting anywhere with them.”

Ash has never faced prosecution for is crimes and is a free man today. Currently he lives in Goole, in a wheel chair accessible bungalow because he was shot by rival gangsters leaving him paralysed.

Many cases have in common that social services, the police and City Council re- mained inactive for a long time when young girls were getting to much older men to have sexual relations. That there were cases not only a few singles, but that there was a system.

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“Lizzie”, poses for an anonymous portrait after sharing her story.

“Lizzie”, not her real name,  was only 12 when she met Umar, He was tall, had a deep voice and a silver car. Not having many friends at school Lizzie was grateful someone was paying attention to her, they would text late into to night “how was school” “what are you thinking about”, Soon they were speaking on the phone every night.

Umar was strong, muscular and in his early 20’s, almost twice her age. She liked his deep voice and how he waited for her outside the school gates. When they said good bye, he kissed her on the mouth, “I found that funny” but she trusted him.

When ever she argued with parents Umar said he would be there for her, he said he understands her, loves her and would one day marry her. The child had never felt like this before, it was completely new to her.

But soon Umar switched. He was no longer sweet and kind. There was no tenderness. Lizzie said she would now belong to him. She struggled for the first time as he dragged her out the car and unbuttoned her school clothes, but Umar would not stop. He said he will wait for her the next day at school.

Lizzies parents worked in a factory and a shop and were only able to take care of her at evenings. They knew she was missing school and were worried about her. Classmates repeatedly told the school that Lizzie was getting into a car with a dark skinned older man, information that was passed on to her parents.

Her parents went to the police and social services with the description, they identified him as 21 year old Umar Razaq, he was known to the authorities and had been spotted hanging around with very young girls. They regarded him as dangerous and said they would look into it.

A week later an Lizzie was raped for the first time, Her parents found text messages on her phone, 200 unambiguous messages about sex, drugs and alcohol. They took this to the police, but again they did nothing.

Now Umar was abusing Lizzie every time they saw each other. It would be in the back of his car, clifton park, the playground and other public places, Lizzie could not resist of fight back.

Weeks went by and other men, friends of Umar, started to join in as well. He would beat and threaten her with a knife if she resisted.

Soon teachers at her school noticed the many marks on Lizzies body, Umar forced Lizzie to claim it was her own father making the marks which resulted in social services taking her into care.

She was now living in a children’s home under the supervision of Rotherham social services. But the abuse did not stop there, it became more frequent. Nothing was done when Lizzie was seen getting in Umars car outside the gates of social services.

Her mother was regularly visiting Lizzie in the children’s home. 17 times she alerted the police, she gave them copies of the explicit text messages, details of where she is taken, license plate numbers and more, yet still nothing was done.

Now lizzie was being taken out of Rotherham, into dark buldings in Barnsley and Sheffield. There were other girls there too, aged around 13 and 14 years old. They were all raped and forced to give oral sex to multiple men. One night Lizzie rebelled and tried to fight back, her abusers beat her, doused her in petrol and held a lighter in the air. She obeyed.

For 11 months Lizzie silently endured hell, she told no one, not even her mother. Despite this, her mother new something was wrong, she saw her little girl change into a scarred women. She searched high and low in the parks, playgrounds and shelters and on one night in november 2008 she witnessed her daughter being abused in a local park. She immediately called 999. But still Umar was not arrested, the police let him go.

Instead Lizzle was moved to another home outside of town which was harder for her parents to get to. Umar still visited lizzie and started to threaten her family. He then tried to extort Lizzies parents demanding they pay £2,000 a month to leave her alone. So finally He left lizzie alone.

It was only last year an independent investigation was ordered, after Jessica had told her story to Sunday Times journalist, Andrew Norfolk. The result of the investigation is now available: 153 pages, by the social scientist Alexis Jay, which describes the abuse in a detailed way. An estimated 1,400 children between 1997 and 2013, have been exploited sexually, writes Jay.

Some girls have been raped by multiple perpetrators, they were kidnapped, beaten and moved from town to town to be prostituted. The majority of the perpetrators were Pakistani heritage men who lived in Rotherham.

“Nevertheless, the administration took no direct contact with representatives of this community, trying to decide how to move forward together,” writes Jay.

The City Council responded in a strange way: Instead of finally clarify the allegations, they searched for the informant to stop the leak.

Almost all of government employees from 1997 to 2013 are still in service today. The responsible police commander in office for two years, refused to resign – even though Prime Minister David Cameron calls for his departure.

There have only been 5 convicted offenders with many dangerous men still on the streets today.

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