Rotherham One year on from Alexis Jay's report
Peach, D 2015, 'Rotherham One year on from Alexis Jay's report', in: Rotherham Advertiser, 24/08/2015.
For the past year, the people of Rotherham have experienced the aftershocks of Professor Jay’s finding of prolonged and extensive child sexual exploitation in their town. Unsurprisingly, they expressed outrage and condemnation at the failings of RMBC and others to protect vulnerable children. To gain a better understanding of the needs of victims, survivors and their families, RMBC commissioned the University of Salford to oversee a research project. As the academic lead on that study, I am delighted to have this opportunity to thank the hundreds of people who took part.
Regrettably, the sexual abuse of children has always occurred, whatever guise it takes, it is always exploitative. Across the world, at least 1 in 10 children are subject to sexual abuse, it is an epidemic. It can be difficult to imagine that we share our communities with adults who are determined to abuse or profit from the sexual abuse of children. Jay’s report highlighted concerns about Asian men of Pakistani heritage sexually exploiting vulnerable girls and raised awareness of the cultural sensitivities that might inhibit enquiries into child abuse. Unfortunately, some political groups have attempted to exploit this issue and aggravate racial tensions within the town. However, Rotherham is not alone with these challenges; as a multi-ethnic society, Britain has to negotiate issues that threaten our multi-cultural communities.
To prevent sexual abuse of children we need to retain a spotlight on all possible offenders and recognise that they exist in all ethnic groups. However, we also need to understand specific offender behaviours and be responsive to how they change over time. It is important to recognise that every child is at risk of sexual abuse. In particular, the increase in young people’s use of the internet presents complex challenges. To combat this predatory risk, we need to keep the topic of child sexual abuse centre stage. It has to be everybody’s business.
There remains deep regret at what victims have suffered, the traumatic impact of sexual abuse affects them and their families for the rest of their lives. Positively, RMBC and local voluntary agencies such as the Base Project and Barnardo’s are working together to develop resources for the whole community. Participants in our study were passionate about protecting children and rebuilding pride in their town. Within Rotherham, there is a collective determination to prevent future victims, to protect those at risk and pursue those responsible. It is an honour to stand together with you, to help protect the children of Rotherham.