LONDON: Grooming gangs across the country are repeating the horrific abuse exposed in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and most recently Newcastle, victims and investigators have warned. There are mounting calls for nationwide action to combat sexual exploitation, with authorities accused of playing catch-up after ignoring victims “for decades and decades”, the Independent has reported.
Sammy Woodhouse, who was abused as a teenager by the Rotherham ringleader Arshid “Mad Ash” Hussain and has waived her right to anonymity, said abuse was underway “all over the country”. “It’s an issue for every town and city, more people are being failed,” she told The Independent. “I’m hearing a lot of new complaints from survivors. “Some are saying they have been to the police and didn’t get taken seriously, others are getting support. But I think the Government is still trying to play this down and make out it’s not a major issue – they are not doing enough.”
Her calls for action came as figures show that in Bradford 1,153 referrals were made to its child sexual exploitation team in 2016/17 – a 62 per cent increase on the year before.
Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s specialist hub launched interventions for 861 children – including many who were referred more than once. The vast majority of possible victims are girls.
Ms Woodhouse said she had also noted a growing number of grooming victims contacting her who were from the city.
Authorities behind an investigation that identified more than 700 women and girls as potential victims of sexual exploitation in North East England believe the abuse is happening far beyond areas where perpetrators have been caught.
Dame Vera, who is the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said the race or religion of perpetrators did not “make the slightest bit of difference” to investigators. “I think an important point to make is some of the victims were Asian as well,” she added.
Ms Woodhouse said her abusers and all those reported to her by other victims were from Muslim backgrounds.“Nobody is saying that all Muslims commit abuse, but by saying it’s not an issue you’re silencing the victims,” she added.
In Bradford, white children were over-represented in the latest figures among those affected compared to the general population, making up 70 per cent of open cases, compared to 16 per cent Asian and 7 per cent mixed.
The council is running a number of safeguarding initiatives and is training teachers, taxi drivers, shopkeepers and bar owners to spot suspicious behaviour, while running education programmes in schools.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This Government has done more than any other to tackle child sexual exploitation, declaring it a national threat and investing millions of pounds to enable officers to actively seek out and bring offenders to justice. This has led to a huge increase in police activity and a marked rise in prosecutions and convictions.