Victims of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal and their families say they feel ‘vindicated’ by the initial findings of a major new investigation which has identified hundreds of possible abusers.
The National Crime Agency has identified around 300 potential suspects in relation to historic sex abuse in Rotherham and agreed with Professor Alexis Jay’s estimate that there were at least 1,400 victims between 1997 and 2013.
Now victims and families who contributed to the recent Voices of Despair, Voices of Hope report on the scandal said they are pleased to see how the NCA are conducting the new investigation, despite no arrests being made as yet.
Benita, the mother of a child who was ‘passed around’ by different abusers and is now in care, said: “I’m no fan of the police or police authorities, but let’s be fair here – they are showing that they mean business and trying to make amends.
“Operation Stovewood is showing we were right all along but no one wanted to listen. No-one in the council has come to us to say ‘Sorry, you were right’.
“I cannot tell you what a relief it is to us, to see in the news the truth coming out at last, showing the children’s innocence and ours as parents in this. I am bitter, of course I am, we’ve lost years and we’ve lost the child we once had.
“We hope one day she’ll come home to us and will be the same as she was before she was groomed and sexually abused by filthy men who took her childhood from her and our child from us.”
One survivor, known as Rebecca, said victims were willing to give Operation Stovewood time to gather evidence strong enough to secure convictions.
She said: “We don’t want the abusers to have any room to squirm out of the sexual crimes they committed and out of the other abuses they have committed too by any evidence being overlooked or dismissed for not being robust enough.
“We’ve waited this long, we can wait a bit longer to make sure these police officers sent in and those working on Operation Stovewood in South Yorkshire Police get it right, as long as it’s not too long.”
Another survivor, known as Chantelle, said victims can now have more confidence to give evidence to both South Yorkshire Police and the NCA.
She said: “I would urge others to come forward because things have changed now in Rotherham and South Yorkshire.
“I was interviewed by the police and they were really sensitive and kind in how they did it. I was terrified to speak up.
“The fear of not being believed and the fear of reprisal from the sex abusers and those close to them, never leaves you, but I had no need to worry, they listened to me and have carried through the investigations really well.
“These people who raped me and others as a child went round thinking they could get away with it, going on to rape other kids but they were wrong , the law is on our side. They shouldn’t be out there being a risk to other kids, even now.
“Operation Stovewood is making a difference and having it in operation tells the rapists there is nowhere to hide and that eventually the law will catch up with them.
“None of them will get away with it, there’s no hiding place for them, now that we the victims and survivors are coming out of the shadows more to speak up.”
A father of one victim said the spotlight must now also turn on child sexual exploitation cases in other parts of the region and the country.
He said: “It’s a national crisis and we need more resources to be given to the authorities to get it sorted and for those authorities who as yet have wiggled out of having the spotlight put on them in other parts of South Yorkshire and nationally to be properly scrutinised as well.
“The perpetrators, wherever they are whether it is in Westminister, or Sheffield or Doncaster or anywhere else, should not be feeling safe, like they’ve got away with it. They should know from Operation Stovewood that it is just matter of time until, they get the knock on their door for what they did to destroy the lives of children.”