Rotherham abuse victims ‘still not being listened to’

Liam Harron with the report co authored with Chrissy Meleady
Liam Harron with the report co authored with Chrissy Meleady
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Child sex abuse victims in Rotherham claim they are still not being listened to and are treated as an ‘embarrassment’ to the town.

The damning verdict of the young survivors of abuse is made in a new report.

Voices of Despair Voices of Hope,

Voices of Despair Voices of Hope,

Interviews were carried out with more than 40 victims, family members, social workers and relatives of abusers for the report called ‘Voices of Despair, Voices of Hope’.

But council bosses have said while they accept the contents of the report, listening to victims and survivors is a ‘priority’ for the authority.

The new publication has been compiled by Chrissy Meleady, an advocate for child abuse survivors, and retired headteacher Liam Harron.

One contributor, whose niece was abused, said there has been a ‘continuing tactic of damage limitation’ since the Jay Report came out.

“The council talk about the losses of business to the town centre as a result of the far-right protests, that and the image is number one for them,” the contributor said.

One victim attended an event organised in the wake of the Jay report where the police and council explained what they had been doing to improve matters.

She said: “We were told that the council wanted to move forward and to put what had happened to the 1,400 children behind them, in effect.

“The council mostly wanted to give an image of having done things. But the things they showed were how they were investing in the brand that is the town, money into shops, the town centre, business. Never once did they speak to victims.

“I sat there as a victim of child sexual exploitation thinking what a load of old tosh.

“We are just an embarrassment to them and they don’t see us as important at all in all of this. When we went to the council for help, they looked at us as if we were beneath them.

“They just chose not to see the real truth that in our area, like in other areas, there are these groups doing the rounds. If left unchecked as in our town, these groups get bigger and hurt more victims. If the council only want to see girls the way they saw me, then God help us all.”

Much of the report was written prior to the publication of the Casey report in February, which found the council was still ‘in denial’ about the grooming scandal.

Mr Harron said there were ‘uncanny similarities’ between what they experienced while compiling their report and issues highlighted by Louise Casey.

He said: “What Louise Casey said about denial we found at first hand. There was complete denial.

“If they had listened to these voices, they could have avoided what happened. But they didn’t.”

Ian Thomas, strategic director of Children and Young Peoples Services for Rotherham Borough Council, said that listening to the views of victims and survivors was a priority for both the commissioners and the whole authority.

He added: “We have met with the authors of this extremely powerful document on numerous occasions and fully accept and support both its publication and its contents.

“The council has purchased 1,500 copies of the publication, which we intend to incorporate within our Child Sexual Awareness training across the council.

“The publication will be used alongside a comprehensive needs assessment of victims and survivors, which has now been completed. This will inform future services and ensure that the right post-abuse support is in place for the longer term.

“If individuals still feel they are not being heard and consulted with then we would urge them to get in touch and tell us how we can do more to help.”

Commissioner Stella Manzie, managing director of the authority, described the publication as “very moving”, saying it serves as a reminder to all organisations with responsibilities for child protection and pursuing criminality, of the real tragedy of child sexual exploitation.

She added: “The Commissioners who have been appointed to Rotherham Borough Council have been here since late February. They each have different roles with Commissioner Newsam leading on the work of the Children and Young People’s Services, but all are focused on how the Council prevents CSE, helps victims and tackles the criminals who exploit children.”

If victims and survivors wish to contact the Commissioners they can e-mail commissioners@rotherham.gov.uk.

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