It’s been one of the most shocking stories of long-term abuse this country has ever seen.
For 16 years up to 1,400 girls as young as 12 were systematically abused by men mostly of Pakistani origin in Rotherham.
Following the Jay report published in August, five separate inquiries are underway into how this could have been allowed to continue for so long.
We know it’s going to get worse for the name of Rotherham before it gets better.
But today is the day victims and their counsellors, Borough Council leaders, the chairman of Rotherham United, Muslim faith leaders, the police, taxi drivers, chamber of commerce and the ordinary people of Rotherham start to look forward to a new future.
Today is the day a new South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner takes office, Rotherham looks its problems in the eye and starts to battle back and rebuild its shattered image as:
Abuse victims look forward to justice and the town restoring its pre-Jay Report image
Rotherham United announce that up to 1,000 jobs could be created on the old Guest and Chrimes site next to the New York Stadium.
Council leader Paul Lakin pledges to make Rotherham a stronger more united place along with businesses, charities and other agencies
Police pledge improved connections with local kids and systems to spot potential abuse
Taxi drivers start to install CCTV in cabs to protect themselves and their customers
Victims’ counselling charities cut waiting times after receiving £80,000 in new grants
One victim, known only as Jessica who was abused from the age of 14 says she believes things can improve in the town - once perpetrators are brought to justice.
Jessica said she is hopeful the truth about the behaviour of police officers and council officials who let victims down can also come out.
Jessica, now aged 29, said: “I definitely think the town can move on and it can be a lot better. It has been so horrific in Rotherham,” she said.
“But no matter how negative the situation, there can always be something positive.”
She said people in the town need to accept there is a problem and that communities and agencies need to be working together to tackle it.
“People need to recognise what the problem has actually been which a lot of people are still in denial about,” she said.
“All the agencies need to come together and work together the same as other communities need to do and realise it is a problem. There needs to be more staff in policing and social services because a lot of people are understaffed.”
She said that for the town to fully move on, those who were culpable in allowing the abuse to happen need to be properly held to account.
“I’m hoping that full investigations are going to be done. The police have a hell of a lot to explain. The badness needs to be dragged out and got rid of and the goodness will come out,” she said
“That will prove to the victims it is being taken seriously. I’m trying to be hopeful but I think there are a lot of people trying to make this go away and still trying to hide things.
“The truth will come out but it is going to be a long road.”
The driving force behind Rotherham United’s recent revival is chairman Tony Stewart who believes that in the long run the Jay Report and its findings will bring the town together.
“I think over a period of time the report will create harmony,” said the man behind ADS lighting.
“We have to have the investigations and the recriminations before we can get over it. It will be a few months before the dust settles. I think Rotherham has become a test case and will be a wake up call for other towns and cities.
“A lot of people put their heads in the sand hoping it would go away but I think it starts to get better from now.”
Meanwhile taxi drivers are taking precautions to protect themselves and their customers.
Nassar Raoof from Sheffield who works in Rotherham said: “I and other taxi drivers have decided to install CCTV and microphones in our cabs to protect us in case there are allegations made. We think it’s sensible for the drivers and for their fares.”
Ch Supt Jason Harwin of South Yorkshire Police said: “We are looking to build better connections with all the communities in Rotherham. What we have learned over the last eight weeks is that we have some good relations and that the community has started to pull together.
“We know some communities are insular but we have to make sure that people are not going round doing exactly what they want outside the law. We know there are bridges to build but if people are not reporting incidents we want them to be confident enough to come forward and tell us about it knowing that we will act.”
Abdool Gooljar President of the South Yorkshire branch of the British Islamic Society said:
“I feel the pain and suffering for all those that have been affected by the grooming scandal and I am very concerned that the right wing political followers have jumped on the situation to create divisions among people. Across the country grooming is becoming a big issue. We need to come together to work for a better future for all our children.”
Council leader Paul Lakin said: “I think it’s the right time and the town needs to come together and build trust and confidence and we can only do that together.
“This is hurting the town but it is bringing it all out into the open. We are planning to get together with businesses and other agencies to rebuild the Rotherham brand. I think in the long term it will make Rotherham a stronger place.”