A ‘culture of wilful denial’ about the extent of sexual exploitation of children pervades local government and police forces across the country, the deputy children’s commissioner has said.
Sue Berelowitz issued a warning that institutions may be guilty of ‘wilful blindness’ after a report revealing the sexual abuse of 1,400 children in Rotherham over a period of 16 years was published.
She claimed there had been instances where she had visited police forces or council officials and found evidence of victim blaming and racial profiling of perpetrators as solely Asian men, although she declined to name those involved.
Ms Berelowitz, author an Office of the Children’s Commissioner Inquiry report in 2013, If Only Someone Had Listened, SAID: “There’s a culture of wilful denial to the reality out there.
“There are still instances of not looking, of wilful blindness. We have to be careful none of us is in denial about the terrible reality of what happened in places like Rochdale and Rotherham.”
Professor Alexis Jay’s inquiry detailed gang rapes, grooming, trafficking and other sexual exploitation on a wide scale in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.
Ms Berelowitz, whose two-year inquiry estimated 16,500 children could be at risk of exploitation by gangs, added that child sexual abuse issues affected all races and communities and called for a major public campaign to raise awareness.
“We need to mount a public information campaign like that done about seatbelts and get money for therapy. We cannot arrest our way out of this problem,” she said.