As sexual grooming investigations continue after failings of Rochdale social service workers led to the targeting of young girls by nine convicted men, the government have revealed that nearly 2,500 children were raped, abducted or abused last year.
Nine Asian men were jailed for 77 years after orchestrating a sex ring to target young vulnerable girls who were all known to social workers – the men plied the teenagers with alcohol before using them for sex.
And new figures reveal that between August 2012 and October 2011 2,409 children were sexually exploited and a futher 16,500 were at ‘high rick’ of abuse across the UK.
The Rochdale scandal caused outrage when allegations were made about Asian men being prone to targeting ‘young white girls’ – but Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz warned that investigators cannot solely focus on that ‘model’ as victims could go unnoticed.
“The reality is that each year thousands of children in England are raped and abused by people seeking to humiliate, violate and control them,” she said.
“The impact on their lives is devastating. These children have been abducted, trafficked, beaten and threatened after being drawn into a web of sexual violence, sometimes by promises of love and sometimes simply because they know there is no alternative.
“This abuse and violence can be relentless and take place anywhere – as they go home from school, as they walk to the shops, in their local park.”
The failings by social services led Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk to claim that class prejudice was a factor in allowing the girls to escape safety and fall victim to sexual grooming.
Targeted child abuse and exploitation in the area has not stopped, according to a health worker whose team helped support victims of the sex ring.
The co-ordinator of Rochdale’s Crisis Intervention Team, Sara Rowbotham, told a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee that a culture in the social services had allowed the abuse to continue.
She insisted that sex rings are still running rife up and down the country, and Ms Berelowitz backed the concerns about males targeting young girls.
“The vast majority of the perpetrators are male and, in both gang and group contexts, different models of exploitation have been identified,” she said.
“Perpetrators range in age from young adolescents to older men. The evidence is clear that they come from all ethnic groups and so do their victims – contrary to what some may wish to believe.
“This report does not shy away from the shocking realities of what is happening up and down the country.
“It is vital agencies improve the information they share about the victims and those at risk of sexual exploitation, so that children can be better protected.”