United Kingdom: Police Fail to Protect Hundreds of Girls Raped and Trafficked for Sex
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 9:55 AM

An official inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, United Kingdom (UK), found that local police and other officials repeatedly ignored or dismissed the rape, sexual assault and trafficking of more than a thousand young girls by organized gangs of men. During a 16-year period from 1997 to 2013, girls as young as 11 were regularly “groomed” for exploitation by members of local gangs. They were eventually raped, often by multiple men, and then trafficked in England for commercial sex. Gang members beat, kidnapped or threatened the girls with further violence or death if they attempted to escape the abuse. 

According to the inquiry, the police did little to protect the girls or investigate allegations of trafficking and rape, “regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.” The inquiry also described “an undeniable culture of institutional sexism” among the police and the elected local council, which contributed to the poor handling of child sexual exploitation cases. Police referred to the gang rape of one 12-year old girl as “100% consensual” and characterized the repeated rapes and abuse of other Rotherham girls as “lifestyle choices.” Very few perpetrators were convicted, due to the lax police response and intimidation of child witnesses by gang members. The inquiry makes several recommendations for improving Rotherham's approach to sexual exploitation and trafficking of girls, including expanded victim services, support, and outreach.

Several other UK cases involving organized sexual exploitation of chidlren have recently come to light, including a criminal ring in Manchester that operated from 1952 to 1991. Overall, 40% of rape victims in England and Wales are children younger than 16.

Compiled from: Hollington, Kris, Child Abuse: A Scourge at the Heart of British Society, Newsweek (September 9, 2014); Bennhold, Kristin, Years of Rape and ‘Utter Contempt’ in Britain: Life in an English Town Where Abuse of Young Girls Flourished, The New York Times (September 1, 2014); Alexis, Jay, Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, 1997-2013, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (August 21, 2014)