Rotherham child abuse scandal

Firstly to say, I am not going to go into details, but if your were to put the words of the title into your Internet search engine you will come up with many “hits” pointing to news, comments, interviews etc. about something that has only recently hit the headlines, although there have been earlier indications. I became aware of this only when walking into my local shop and spotted a newspaper with the headline: “The horrific cost of the Rotherham scandal 1,400 child abuse victims. Sixteen years of appalling exploitation. Why did nobody act? Head of inquiry shocked by findings”. I found it was all over TV and radio reporting and will be until a new headline replaces it in the next day or so, one is able to check out the graphic and disturbing details of what happened, the implications and consequences. The brutality of the crimes, vulnerability of victims and their families and the extent of the abuse, not just in Rotherham but in other places too, are especially disturbing.

While the scandal was first exposed some years back, the full extent of what is happening and is still happening wasn’t realized by many, including me, not just in Rotherham but in other places of the UK. While society tends to come down especially hard on those who attack children, it is for understandable reasons. I remember once as a 15 year old hearing an impassioned talk by my youth leader at the time that addressed the subject of child abuse and quoted from the Bible regarding the abuser: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea”. In my grumpiness, I haven’t always lived up to the noble aspiration of showing kindness to children, for some/most can be “horrors” if circumstances allowed, but those words have never left me and I have sought to protect rather than exploit and, when I do see children treated badly, this has been a cause of special sadness.

Already there is a call to make people accountable for what was allowed to take place, despite enough warnings being given that bad things were happening. While it beggars belief that such things did happened, and on top of widely reported historic child abuse involving well known personalities, the fact is it does happen and we (all of us) should be doing what we can and what is appropriate to stop these things happening again and at least reducing incidents of child abuse and better protecting our children. Given my last post was on political correctness, which didn’t even consider this subject, it is interesting to note that there are some who attribute the inaction of those who might have stopped the crimes being carried out, and bringing to justice the criminals, to them being beholden to notions of political correctness as well as a head in sand approach.

The majority of the perpetrators of these crimes are Asian men, and in particular Pakistani Muslims, and there was the fear of alienating those communities if certain interventions were embarked upon. This is, of course, inexcusable, especially given the early indications that something was wrong, that was not acted upon. My dealings with the Muslim community, many of which are of Pakistani origin, have led me to believe most are decent people that will no doubt share my revulsion against the abuses we are discovering. But then no-one should be exempt, and authorities should not renege on their duty of care out of fear of a backlash against a vociferous minority claiming they are being got at,  when trying to get to the bottom of what is happening and in the light of this and related scandals, e.g. around the late Jimmy Saville, must introduce reasonable measures aimed at stopping these abuses happening again.

One of my earlier posts, that happens to be relevant here, had the title “sledgehammers to crack nuts”. One obvious concern is there may be a backlash against the Pakistani Muslim community, and those of BME origin generally. This needs to be contained, even if not entirely as one senses that extreme right groups will be looking to have a field day over what happened. Ignorance needs to be challenged and community cohesion has to be encouraged. There is the concern though that measures, that could be put in place to prevent further abuse of this type, may penalize families with strong religious convictions, whose strictness could be wrongly interpreted as exploitation. What must happen is that the right people must be brought to account, and not to make scapegoats, institutional weaknesses such as an adherence to the worst aspects of political correctness must be dealt with and all reports of abuse must be taken seriously and sensible measures taken to address these.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. By that, I take it that he was telling us how precious children are and how horrific were the abuses that did take place. Children need to be loved, nurtured and protected and most certainly they are not to be abused in any way.

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