A report into the systematic abuse of white girls at the hands of Asian, mainly Pakistani men has found that the police and social services didn’t do anything to prevent the abuse because they blamed the girls, some of whom were as young as 11, for the abuse.
The serious case report into the exploitation of six girls in the Oxfordshire area by a gang of seven Asian men, who were later convicted at the Old Bailey in London, found that police and social services failed to act long after they were made aware that children were engaged in sexual relations with the men thanks to “a combination of not grasping the extent of exploitation, the focus on the girls and their families as the source of the problems, the corresponding lack of focus on perpetrators, and a host of administrative and management issues”.
Alan Bedford, the paper’s author, found that “the overall problem was not grasping the nature of the abuse – the grooming, the ‘pull’ from home, the erosion of consent, the inability to escape and the sheer horror of what the girls were going through – but of seeing it as something done more voluntarily. Something that the girls did as opposed to something done to them.”
He notes that “scores of professionals from numerous disciplines, and tens of organisations or departments […] used language that appeared at least in part to blame victims and see them as adults.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has told MPs that the report made it clear that police and social workers had failed on a number of levels.
“[The report] is an indictment of the failure of frontline workers to protect extremely vulnerable young people over a number of years,” she said. “Reading the details of what happened to them has been truly sickening.
“The serious case review makes clear that numerous opportunities to intervene to protect these girls were missed as police and social workers failed to look beyond what they saw as troubled teenagers to the frightened child within.
“As a result they failed to act on clear evidence of sexual abuse, to protect girls or even to pass on concerns to a sufficiently senior level.” Morgan added that ministers rejected explanations that child sex abuse was not “widely recognised” at the time.
During the trial of the men at the Old Bailey, the Prosecution described the girls who became their victims as vulnerable children, aged just 11 or 12. “… these men, sometimes acting in groups and at other times separately, actively targeted vulnerable young girls from the age of about the ages of 11 or 12,” the prosecutor told the court.
“There is evidence that the men deliberately targeted children who were out of control. They also targeted children who had been sent to live in care homes for precisely that reason. … The girls who were chosen generally had troubled upbringings and unsettled home lives which made it less likely that anyone would be exercising any normal parental control over them or looking out for them.”
Extraordinarily, the police and social services, who are tasked with safeguarding vulnerable children, deemed the children themselves to be complicit in their own abuse. In one police report, a 13 year old girl was recorded as having an “age appropriate sexual relationship” with an Asian man much older than her.
Bedford quotes a police report into the matter as finding that “there appears to have been a tolerance of underage sexual activity and no recognition of factors such as abuse of power and coercion and the fact that this was against the law.
“At interview most members of staff disputed they tolerated underage sex and they did try to talk to the girls about this but that often the most they felt they could do was to stress that it was inappropriate, to ask the girls why they thought older men would be interested in young girls and to talk about safe sex.”
Bedford concludes that “there was, beyond any lack of knowledge or clarity, an acceptance of a degree of underage sexual activity that reflects a wider societal reluctance to consider something ‘wrong’.”
The report includes testimonies from the girls, aged between 12 and 15 at the time of their abuse:
“Dad was violent to me. I thought it was normal.” “Suddenly the guys were bringing me stuff. They said how lovely I was.” “They paid for drinks and gave us drugs” “They took us to a field where there were other men who had come to have sex with us. I tried not to do it. There were five of them.” “He urinated on me.” “It was always Asian men.”
“I was expected to do things – if I didn’t they said they would come to my house and burn me alive. I had a baby brother.” “I turned up at the police station at 2/3am, blood all over me, soaked through my trousers to the crotch. They dismissed it as me being naughty, a nuisance. I was bruised and bloody.” “Social services washed their hands – ‘it’s your choice’ I was told.”
“Police… didn’t find me except once… I didn’t hide – I told people where I was.” “If a perpetrator can spot the vulnerable children, why can’t professionals?”