Only a small fraction of more than 1,400 victims who were sexually exploited as children in Rotherham over a 16-year period have come forward for help, according to a lawyer representing survivors.
A year after the publication of the Jay Report, which produced the estimate that more than 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked, groomed and violently attacked in the South Yorkshire town, David Greenwood said that he believed fewer than 100 of the girls involved have engaged with the raft of new inquiries.
Mr Greenwood, who represents 58 girls who were subjected to sexual abuse by gangs of men in Rotherham between 1996 and 2012, said the much-criticised police and council have made progress in the town in the past 12 months. But he believes many survivors will only trust the system again once a truly independent agency is brought in.
“Both agencies have improved in Rotherham in the last 12 months but survivors of exploitation will be unwilling to come forward to them unless radical changes are made,” Mr Greenwood said.
“An agency independent from South Yorkshire Police and RMBC (the council) is essential for the 1,400 young women who need help.
“I am aware of only around 50 to 60 girls having come forward. This means there are around 1,350 whose lives could be improved with specialist help.”
Professor Alexis Jay’s shocking report was published on 26 August last year. It was already well known that girls in Rotherham had been subjected to sexual exploitation by gangs of largely Asian men.
The outrage provoked by the report stemmed from the sheer scale of offending that it outlined and the horrific details included of what had been going on in the town between 1996 and 2013.
Professor Jay said at the time she had found “utterly appalling” 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”.
The National Crime Agency has been brought in to investigate historical crimes and recently announced that it was looking at 300 potential suspects.
A £3m initiative was announced earlier this month which will see a Barnardo’s team of specialist workers work with children in South Yorkshire who are at risk of being sexually exploited.
So, progress is happening, just a little on the slow side.