Life in a northern town has never been so grim if you translate the reading of the report into Rotherham’s widespread and systematic child sex abuse as your pointer of a town’s status. You can add Rochdale, Stockport and and Blackburn as well as other northern towns into the mix, although it must always be acknowledged that the geography of abuse points south, east and west, as well as north.
But, for the moment, it’s the sheer scale of the abuse which makes the Rotherham case so damning. The police, senior social workers as well as the people assigned a locos parentis role to children in local authority care homes seemingly turned a blind eye, all because in a prejudicial way they dismissed these poor young girls as being worthless ‘scum’ or ‘slags’ and ‘liars’.
Shamefully the town’s former Labour MP Denis MacShane cited the ‘race card’ as a reason for turning a blind eye to the equivalent of 50 classrooms of young girls, some as young as 11, being abused and ignored for over a decade.
This deplorable view should no longer be tolerated. Back in 2013 Jane Cook, chair of the Victoria Climbie Foundation, told JFHC Live delegates that developing a keen sense of ‘cultural competence’ would help them develop a keener awareness of the common issues and challenges faced by ‘vulnerable’ black and ethnic children and their families.
She recommended developing an ‘open dialogue’ with communities on matters relating to their culture, faith and beliefs. She argued this dialogue could potentially facilitate easier and more effective ways to deal with cultural or faith-based abuse (such as witchcraft, child trafficking, forced marriages, fgm, corrective rape, domestic violence and spirit possession).
But it was her concluding phraseology on abuse which left an overriding impression on me. She said that although it was good practice to recognise differences both between and within cultures, "neither religion nor cultural values must ever override the safety and welfare of a child".
Listen and watch Jane Cook's talk in full at www.youtube.com/watch?v=opbOEIjLjU4
In other words, safeguarding of the child should trump any fear of being accused of racism.
In Rotherham and indeed all over the UK ignoring the widespread sexual abuse and depravity should be viewed as much a crime and morally reprehensible as the wicked deeds themselves.
Collectively as a society, we should no longer turn a blind eye to the abuse of any child, of any age, creed or socio-economic status. Information should be more widely and readily shared to help recognise the signs of abuse.
Health professionals should be offered full support when voicing any concerns they have about absenteeism at school, a child appearing withdrawn, or one who self harms, etc. The child victims of abuse should themselves be offered full emotional support and other supportive therapies to help them heal the trauma they’ve experienced, funded by the government and flagged up as an urgent priority.
I also believe that sex and relationships education in schools starting from around the age of seven which explore what normal and loving relationships are (rather than children developing their own warped ideas from the internet) might prove an effective weapon against any violent or coercive relationships they might encounter in the future.
Zero tolerance towards abuse is the only way forward in multi-cultural Britain. The alternative is too horrific to even contemplate.