Rotherham abuse victim waives right to anonymity in fight for justice

Sammy Woodhouse (BBC Inside Out)

Sammy Woodhouse (BBC Inside Out)

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The woman who triggered a series of events which exposed the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham has waived her right to anonymity in her fight for justice.

Sammy Woodhouse, aged 31, who previously used the name 'Jessica' to talk about her ordeal at the hands of a Rotherham sex gang, went public last night to share her experiences on a BBC Inside Out special report.

Arshid Hussain

Arshid Hussain

She was abused by gang leader Arshid Hussain, now 41, from the age of 14, becoming pregnant twice during the course of the abuse.

Sammy was among 15 victims who gave evidence against Hussain and four others, including his younger brothers Basharat Hussain and Bannaras Hussein, during a trial after which the gang members were jailed for a total of 102 years.

Ringleader Arshid Hussain, of East Cowick, Goole, was jailed for 35 years for grooming, raping and abusing teenage girls in Rotherham.

His brothers Basharat and Bannaras got 25 years and 19 years respectively.

When they were jailed, Judge Sarah Wright told the gang: “The harm you have caused is of unimaginable proportions.”

She paid tribute to the 'immense courage' of the victims who came forward.

Now, Sammy now wants action taken against the professionals she said failed her.

"I think now it's time that professionals are held accountable," she said.

"We've seen perpetrators held accountable and that's good for us because we can move forward now; we're getting that justice.

"We can't move forward as a town until those professionals are charged and held accountable."

Arshid Hussain was 20 years older than Sammy when he pulled up in a car alongside her when she was 14 in St John's Green, Eastwood, Rotherham.

She said he 'put a spell' on her and she was 'fascinated by him' initially while he treated her like his girlfriend.

But she said within a few weeks became 'very controlling,' 'very possessive' and used to hit her.

Despite having contact with the authorities, she said action was never taken against Arshid because she was seen to be 'consenting' to their relationship.

Sammy claims she missed months of school, was found in bed with Arshid and was placed in foster care by her parents in a bid to protect her, but Arshid still had contact with the teenager and she became pregnant twice.

"I blame him, and I also blame the professionals that failed, that helped them and that covered things up," she said.

"There's times when I still feel angry at him. There's times when I want to cry. And then there's times that I will always love him, because he gave me my son."

Sammy set the train of events in motion which led to the independent report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham revealing that between 1997 and 2013, around 1,400 children were abused by men of largely Pakistani heritage while those in authority failed to act.

She reported the abuse to The Times and on the day her story was published she was interviewed by South Yorkshire Police and two weeks later Rotherham Council ordered an independent inquiry into its handling of child sexual exploitation in the town, which led to the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's damning findings.

Sammy's interview with the BBC is available to download via iPlayer.

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