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UK: The horrifying mass abuse of teenage girls that the system produces and covers up
16 March 2015. A World to Win News Service. The UK has been engulfed in a series of scandals about the sexual abuse of teenagers, particularly teenage girls, that has been going on for a few decades.
On 16 March, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced that it was investigating Scotland Yard in relation to 14 complaints of child sexual abuse made against it from the 1970s through 2005. The London metropolitan police are accused of systematically covering up the reports because of the involvement of Members of Parliament and police themselves in these rapes and, in one case, the suspected murder of a young boy MPs had been abusing in a public housing estate (public housing) near Parliament. (The Independent, 16 March 2015) This is extremely significant because Scotland Yard has been in charge of looking into numerous high-profile cases of recent and past sexual abuse.
Just before that, it was revealed that the South Yorkshire police covered up hundreds of cases of sex abuse of teenage girls in Sheffield. On 12 March, more than 200 girls were reported to the force as being potential victims of sexual exploitation in Sheffield mainly between 2007 and 2013.
However, the most horrifying case to come to light so far, in terms of scale and intensity, is the long-term organized abuse of girls in Rotherham, a town in South Yorkshire, northern England.
According to an independent report conducted by Professor Alexandra Jay published last August, at least 1,400 teenage girls were subjected to brutal sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities, beaten and intimidated.
Emma was groomed (lured and lied to in order to psychologically prepare them for abuse) at age 12, and raped at age 13. She told her story to BBC Panorama on 31August 2014.
“Up until this point they had never tried to touch me, they had not made me ever feel uncomfortable or ever feel unsafe or that they could harm me… I trusted them, they were my friends as I saw it, until one night my main perpetrator raped me, quite brutally as well, in front of a number of people… From then on I would get raped once a week, every week.”
She said that on one occasion she was taken to a bedroom in a flat and repeatedly raped by different men. “I just had to sit and wait until they sent man after man in and whatever they wanted, I had to give them.” Emma goes on to say how the abusers parked their cars in front of her house and threatened to harm her family and rape her mum if she refused to go and see them.
Every aspect of this report is shocking
It wouldn’t be exaggerated to assume there might be many more cases not counted, because they have gone unreported or hidden by the victims or their families out of fear, or for cultural or other reasons.
The reaction of the police and council (local authorities) – or rather their inaction – in the face of such obvious abuses stunned many who believed the purpose of the police force is to protect the people and especially children. There is massive evidence that the police, including on the highest levels, were aware of the ongoing abuses, but did nothing to prevent them. There is even evidence that suggests that the police themselves, at some level, might have been involved in Rotherham, as well as London.
The Rotherham police chief, council cabinet, local Members of Parliament and social services, those who claim to be serving the people, have close contact with the neighbourhoods and keep every inch under surveillance (with omnipresent CCTV, patrols, etc.). All deny they knew anything about the scale of these horrifying abuses. However abundant evidence suggests otherwise. Professor Jay’s report discloses that three previous reports prepared in 2002, 2003 and 2006 all provided “stark evidence” that “could not have been clearer” to the police and council. But those reports were either suppressed or ignored by both police and the council. “A member of the enquiry committee said they had heard evidence that the researcher had been contacted by two officers who threatened to pass her name to the groomers in Rotherham and she had been left in fear of her life,” a journalist wrote in the Guardian (9 September 2014). The council also ignored warnings from front line social workers who raised their concerns.
The extent and dimension of the abuse suggested, even before the latest IPCC charges about London, that it was not something particular to Rotherham, but rather endemic in much of the UK. According to the Telegraph (3 March 2015), it is estimated that “at least 370 girls were likely to have been targeted for child sexual exploitation in Oxford alone over the last 16 years.” Like in Rotherham and London, social services officials and police ignored evidence and turned a blind eye – at best.
A picture of the extent of all this begun to emerge after a series of high profile cases: the jailing of nine South Asian men for sex abuse in Rochdale (Greater Manchester) in May 2012; one revelation after another about a lifetime of sexual abuse of children by the very prominent BBC entertainer Jimmy Savile; and the discovery that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher squashed a report of abuse committed by Cabinet members during the 1980s. The authorities now claim that the report has disappeared.
Journalists have speculated about the existence are indications of one or more powerful paedophile networks involving celebrities and high ranking officials.
What we can be certain of is that the authorities did not care. Emma says she reported her sexual exploitation to the police. She saved her clothes for evidence but police said they were lost. They told her it was “only her word against his”, and wouldn’t result in a conviction or even get to court so she shouldn’t insist. Another victim, Sarah, was 11 living in a children’s shelter when she was first groomed. She said her abuse went on for five or six years and involved 40 to 50 men. Once, she said, a police officer found her naked in a bed and left without doing anything.
“Me and the other girl were pushed to the side of the bed, naked, no clothes on, and a police officer came to the side of the bed. I recall locking eyes with that police officer and he said ‘There is nobody here’, and he left. We got dropped off back at the kids’ home the next day.” (BBC, 5 February 2015)
When she spoke out about her abuse, the police accused her of lying and being a troublemaker. They said since she was going out with these men she should have expected to get raped.
Jessica said she was groomed from the age of 14 in 1999 and suffered years of violent abuse. She said police officers called her “whore”, “bitch” and “mistress”. And as the news presenter put it, “Jessica feels betrayed by the police, by the local authorities, by the system.”
Jessica’s father, Paul, also said he went to the police four times about what was happening.
“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.”
Another victim told the BBC that she had suffered dozens of attacks at the hands of a gang over five years after being groomed from the age of 11. “The police said I was asking for it… I was being viciously groomed and locked in strange homes with dirty, filthy men. I had no voice to speak. No one listened to me.”
What the police did in Rotherham has been common practice by police officers and officials for decades. This makes it difficult for the victim to know if the police are cooperating with sexual abusers or not. Not only do the police not see such abuse a crime, they see the victims as abusers or criminals.
The Rotherham scandal caused many victims in other places and in earlier years to come forward and tell their stories about how the police ignored them. A woman told how the police put her on trial instead of the rapist. “What were you wearing that night?” asked one of the officers.” “And then the penny dropped,” she recounted. “As I indicated a point halfway up my thigh and swallowed back tears, I realised that I must have done something wrong when I – 11 years old, let’s not forget – was sexually assaulted by this 32-year-old man, done something wrong by wearing a short night-dress. The questions went on. Had I touched him? Where did I touch him? How did I touch him? For years afterwards, those questions echoed in my head, followed by a relentless, inner voice of my own that said: ‘You must be a dirty little whore.'” (Observer, 31 August 2014)
Even the women who were victims of sexual abuses in their own home back in the 1960s and 70s are coming forward and saying that when they reported it to police or teachers they were treated as troublemakers, not victims. They were made to feel that the problem was that they were not “normal”. This has been the “normal” practice of the police and other authorities and institutions for at least decades.
The issue is male supremacy, not ethnicity
The report also reveals that the perpetrators in Rotherham were mainly gangs of men whose families had come from Pakistan and Kashmir. This has been picked by the media and political figures to describe the abusers as “Asian” (an English euphemism) while the victims are young white girls, and characterise the abuse as being driven by “Asians” hatred of “whites”.
The debate around this “ethnic” issue has helped divert attention away from the degradation of women that is the result of functioning of a patriarchal system. It gives the ruling class the opportunity to escape the exposure of horrors deeply embedded in some of its most important institutions and instead counter attack around one of its favourite issues, instigating hate of foreigners.
The powers that be can’t be allowed to turn the tables like that. The issue is not the colour of the victims but the nature of the abuse. All the reported victims in Rotherham were females. In other cases elsewhere, young boys as well as girls were raped. They are mainly from poor and working class families. South Yorkshire is one of the poorest areas in the UK, and one of the areas most devastated by Thatcher’s “free market” social and economic policies during the 1980s, especially the closures of the mines and industries had shaped the local economy. It is one of the poorest areas in the UK and all of Western Europe.
The abusers are not abusers because of their ancestry but because they are male and enjoying the privileges that a patriarchal system has provided for them, taking full advantage of that. Sexual abuse is not particular to South Asian males. There have been numerous cases of such abuse by white male gangs. Jimmy Savile and many of the MP’s and prominent cabinet members involved in past scandals about the sexual abuse of teenagers were considered the cream of English society.
Also, white girls were not the only victims in these cases. In fact, the Jay report also refers to the under-reporting of the exploitation and abuse of minority ethnic communities. The professor stated, “One of these myths was that only white girls are victims of sexual exploitation by Asian or Muslim males, as if these men only abused outside of their own community, driven by hatred and contempt for white females. This belief flies in the face of evidence that shows that those who violate children are most likely to target those who are closest to them and most easily accessible.”
The truth is that abusers and police and council authorities of all ethnicities were directly or indirectly united and supported each other so that this abuse could go on and on. The voice of the victims was ignored because they were female and often lived in “troubled” council houses (public housing) and were therefore “worthless”. This is why they were condemned to have their lives ruined. The bigger picture is the “normalization” of sexual abuse and rape, especially against those most defenceless – when men can get away with it. This is the heart of problem.
The system is guilty
Six months have gone by and little has been done. The source of deliberate inaction or possible complicity by the police force or councils has not really been investigated. What has been done is the setting up of an enquiry by the Home Affairs select committee of Parliament, and some individuals are pressured to resign from their posts, including the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner and the chief executive of the Rotherham council. The council chief stepped down, but the police commissioner refused to do so.
This is the same old story: a few low-ranking officers might – only might – be found guilty, the head might resign or not, but the structure remains the same. The most important point for the authorities on every level is to go back to business as usual until the next scandal comes to light. They are trying hard to prevent the discrediting of a system that has ruined the life of millions of people in different ways.
This will not restore ruined lives or stop this from happening again. This is not a solution but an attempt to deceive the victims and the people.
The systemic sexual abuse of children is not new. Whether the abusers are Asian gangs or white gangs, Catholic priests or mullahs, BBC entertainers or other powerful celebrities, Members of Parliament or the cabinet, enquiries have always reached the same point: resignation or not resignation, and then everything goes back to “normal”. But not for thousands who were abused or lost their lives or will face such horrors in the future because of the system that those abuses and abusers are a product of.
The brutality of abuses and inaction of the officials and despair and helplessness of the teenage girls and their families are not the result of bad luck or the mistakes of a few. If such criminal acts on such a horrifying scale are considered “normal” by those who are supposed to prevent them, this reveals something about the nature of the “normal” workings of the economic, social and political system and its values and morals.
It is the patriarchal capitalist system built on exploitation and oppression on a world scale that trains and produces the police officers, councillors, social workers and abusers who all agree that these women do not matter, they are just “liars” “asking for it”, and basically “time wasters” and so deserved to be punished by insults and rape. That system cannot and will not stop the oppression of women. In fact, the degradation of women and worse is an important part of its functioning and will continue in various forms under such a system.
There is no doubt that the misery for these victims is not over and those among them who do not see the real problem consciously will find it hard to get themselves out of this. Many will face depression, alcoholism, drugs, serious mental illnesses, abusive relationships, the disruption of their education and employment, and further forms of suffering that the system doesn’t care about. The most effective fight against these abuses and abusers and their enablers at the highest political levels is to fight against the system and for a world where there is no exploitation and oppression, an end to capitalism, patriarchy and male domination.