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About 1,400 children were sexually exploited in a northern England town, a report has concluded in a damning account of "collective failures" by authorities to prevent victims as young as 11 from being beaten, raped and trafficked over a 16-year period.
Report author Alexis Jay cited appalling acts of violence between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, a town of some 250,000 inhabitants. The independent report that concluded yesterday, came after a series of convictions of sexual predators in the region and ground-breaking reports in the Times of London.
Reading descriptions of the abuse make it hard to imagine that nothing was done for so long. The report described rapes by multiple perpetrators, mainly from Britain's Pakistani community, and how children were trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.
"There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone," Jay said. "Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators."
The report's author took great pains to make sure the identities of the children were not revealed, but offered a general description of the cases showing the victims were between 11 and 16 years old. Most, but not all, were girls, who are preyed upon by unrelated older men.
A sampling of case studies showed the victims first came into contact with authorities for a variety of reasons, including being reported missing from their homes, leaving school with unknown men or as victims of stalking. While most of the victims in the older cases were described as "white British children," but the report said that more recently a greater number of cases were coming from the growing Pakistani, Kashmiri and Roma communities.
Attention first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men received lengthy jail terms after convictions of grooming teens for sex. A series of other high-profile cases featuring Pakistani rings also emerged in Rochdale, Derby and Oxford and communities began to look more closely at their child sex exploitation cases.
Rotherham decided to conduct a formal enquiry and Jay, a former chief social work adviser to the Scottish government, was appointed to investigate. But she told the BBC that she was "very shocked" by what she found.