Barely a week goes by without there being more stories about #MeToo and Time’s Up in the news. It’s good news, though, that this sexual violence against women is finally being called out so ceaselessly.
But what is appalling, is when you compare this coverage with the intermittent attention given to the scandal of organised child rape, which is endemic across Britain. While it’s certainly to be welcomed that some focus has finally been shone on what is curiously known as ‘grooming’, we rarely hear about these poor victims.
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When they do make it to the news, the majority of these British cases – which are far removed from the #MeToo glamour of Hollywood – are reported in a way that sanitises the reality of what happens to these vulnerable teenagers. Not least by the use of the term ‘grooming’. So let’s be clear. We are talking about the sexual abuse, rape, and pimping of children. Young girls are drugged, forced to drink alcohol, tortured and violated in sadistic and violent fashion by man after man. Some become pregnant and are forced to abort; all are routinely beaten by pimps if they “step out of line”.
The continued reluctance to cover the scandal is nothing new. I first began researching this issue in the early 2000s, but it took me almost seven years to persuade an editor to publish the very first investigation into the phenomenon. The cases I had looked at were all based in the north of England, where parents, and in some cases, the victims, had been desperately trying to get police to follow-up their complaints about gangs of men, primarily of Pakistani Muslim heritage, targeting teenage girls.
But editor after editor told me that they were concerned that people would consider it ‘Islamophobic’ if they were to draw attention to the subject. That unease among much of the liberal media to chase these stories for fear of being seen as anti-Muslim remains. As I have long argued, however, these particular gangs of men do not rape and pimp children because they are Pakistani Muslim – they do it because they are pimps and child abusers. Let’s not forget we are perfectly capable of growing our very own white child rapists (remember Jimmy Savile?).
That these men got away with it for so long (just as Savile did), was in part because the police and social services simply did not care enough about the victims. They weren’t looking hard enough for the gangs. And what little desire they had to protect these girls was outweighed by a reluctance to allow white racists to whip up a “race riot” over the fact that the majority of the rapists in these cases were Muslim. That and the fear of being called racist themselves.
It’s true that these girls’ stories did prove useful for racist extremists. Take the former EDL leader, Tommy Robinson– real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. He’s not a man you would usually expect to be interested in the plight of young and abused women. But these cases of girls being ‘groomed’ took on a whole new piquancy for him, since they could also be used to argue against the migration of young Muslim men into the UK.
And so, into the vacuum left by the media and the police moved the racists. The far-right became officially involved in this issue back in 2004, over a Channel 4 documentary, Edge of the City. That programme dealt specifically with the story of a group of parents who were trying to stop groups of young Asian men sexually abusing and pimping girls as young as 11. ELEVEN! The BNP decided to use the story as part of its own party political broadcast, and said as much on its website the week before the doc was due to air.
Shockingly, there had been no arrests of the men, despite the fact that police had been given names and car registration details and mobile phone numbers of the abusers. But rather than focus efforts on catching the criminals, the then Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, joined groups such as Unite against Fascism in calling for the documentary to be withdrawn, and Channel 4 complied. The victims were silenced and, as many argued at the time, the delay in transmission only strengthened the case of the BNP.
When will the penny drop that the racists and white supremacists don’t actually have these young women’s well-being at heart? For far from brilliantly and ruthlessly exposing child abuse gangs, characters such as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon are more likely to cause a mistrial and prevent justice from being done. His recent incarceration should be welcomed.
Not that the police are much better. A number of forces have been criticised for not investigating to the best of their abilities, and rightly so. This is where we need to focus our anger because if the police don’t do their jobs, the perpetrators will not be convicted, and the issue will not get the airing it so desperately needs.
Maggie Oliver, a redoubtable campaigner for the rights of these victims, was a police officer at the heart of the Rochdale case. But she walked out in exasperation at the gross incompetence of her colleagues in dealing with the victims.1
Oliver is fighting for justice for all these girls (now adult women), and is talking to the human rights NGO, Centre for Women’s Justice about the possibility of bringing a legal case against the police and the CPS. If Oliver gets her way, we will be hearing far more about the ‘grooming gangs’ and the failings of police and prosecutors. We will learn exactly how many other girls have been badly let down by those state agencies tasked with protecting them.
Perhaps if the liberal media were to focus less on the antics of Tommy Robinson and his merry band of knuckle draggers, and more on what still needs to be done to end this systematic abuse, then things might finally start to change. We might start giving a damn about these girls and not just the #MeToo girls.