I suppose it’s good to still get agitated about stories I cover. But the amount of political capital that politicans have tried to make out of the Rotherham child sexual grooming scandal left me all the more appalled when I went there to make this film for BBC1’s Inside Out programme in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (available on that iplayer link till 1900 Nov 5th) , and found the survivors with no organised support or campaign fund. The film was produced by Sam Wichelow who approached me about tackling the taboo of race and culture in the scandal and it was sensitively shot by Mark Graham. My thanks to them both.
I’d read the Jay Report cover to cover and it had brought to the surface my nagging worry, carried for nearly 20 years since I first went to report on riots in Bradford, about the growing gender and racial segregation of British Pakistanis in some northern towns. I wrote a piece for The Guardian about why it wasn’t racist to talk about race and culture in regard to the abuse of white working class girls. As a result producer Sam Wichelow asked me to make the film. I’m humbled by the resilient women I met who have survived the abuse, suffered the torment of seeing their children go through it and the women supporting them through independent counselling.
Given the scale of similar abuse in towns such as Derby, Oxford, Rochdale and Keighley in recent years, it feels as though we have only just begun to look over the edge of an abyss. Here’s the latest piece I wrote about it for The Guardian today, challenging politicians happy to declare their outrage, to put some money and action where their mouth is.
My thanks to all the women who spoke to me. To Holly Archer, Joanne Turner, “Jessica”, Sandra Moule of the Rotherham Women’s Counselling Service and Pitstop Counselling for Men, to Jasvinder Sanghera of Karma Nirvana — a longterm and vocal campaigner against the culture of silence about domestic violence and forced marriage within Asian communities and to former MP Ann Cryer, who was vilified for speaking up about the issue so many years ago.
And here’s a reminder from 2 years ago about how some public officials and national newspapers, now so apparently outraged by the abuse of “our girls” hounded a survivor of grooming as a fantasist and insisted such things could never happen in Britain.