A report released last week has sent shockwaves through the British establishment, after revealing that 1,400 girls from the town of Rotherham in South Yorkshire have been sexually abused by "grooming gangs" of Pakistani Muslim men since 1997, while the police and social services looked on.
The girls, some as young as 11, were raped many times by multiple assailants, trafficked to other towns and cities in the UK and threatened with extreme violence if they failed to comply. Victims were doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight if they refused to cooperate.
The independent inquiry, conducted by veteran researcher Professor Alexis Jay, was published last week. It records in 153 pages of excruciating detail the extent of the sexual abuse of children that went on from 1997 to 2013. The report highlights the fact that concerns over sexual abuse was repeatedly dismissed over fears of being labelled "racist." Those in power in the council, the social services and the police routinely ignored the problem even when it was brought to their attention by victims and parents.
Professor Alexis Jay said, "The utter brutality is what shocked me most. It is really hard to describe it – the horrible nature of the sexual acts and the brutality of the controls these girls were subjected to. There was a vast amount of truly horrific material. I was taken aback at how callous, how violent, the operations were. These were girls of 11 and 12. They were children. The violence was worst. Petrol dousing was used as a form of intimidation. Oral and anal sex were so often a means of control and punishment. It was truly frightening that people in our country could be doing that.”
The inquiry also found that three other reports which provided "stark evidence" to the police and the council of the extent of abuse were ignored. They were published in 2002, 2003 and 2006.
One victim, Emma (not her real name) told reporters how she was groomed from the age of 12, and then raped once a week, every week from 13 to 15. Although she told the police three months after her abuse started, the police lost the clothes she provided as evidence and said that the case "probably wouldn't result in a conviction or even get to court."
She told BBCs Panorama program that she was forced to have sex with "whoever wanted to come and have sex with me."
In one incident she described being locked inside a bedroom in someone's apartment and repeatedly raped by different men.
"I just had to sit and wait until they sent man after man in and whatever they wanted, I had to give them," she said.
"I can remember begging one of the perpetrators who I knew quite well not to send anybody else into that room and to just let me go home and them just laughing at me, telling me to get up and basically just get on with it."
Her parents knew of her abuse but were powerless to act, as the police ignored the case and did not investigate. They locked Emma in her bedroom for her own safety, but once her abusers began threatening to capture and rape her mother, Emma broke out to go and see the men.
Emma's is just one of the many stories revealed by this investigation. A former care worker in Rotherham told the BBC that while he worked at children's homes over four years, abusers were "brazen" about what they were doing, openly picking up girls in taxis from the children's home and bringing them back later completely intoxicated with drugs and alcohol.
He reported that when he confronted the men, they threatened to have him stabbed or shot.
But despite documenting every case of a child going missing and passing the information on, nothing was ever done.
In 2002, a report was being produced by a Home Office researcher, but the files were seized by the Labour-run council and the report was never published. The government was at that time making a great effort to improve relations with the Muslim community.
Labour party officials spoke to The Telegraph, saying that due to "obsessing about multiculturalism" the abuse of white girls by Pakistani Muslim men was ignored. Ann Cryer, an MP from 1997 until 2010 said that when she exposed a child abuse scandal perpetrated by Pakistani men in Keighley, West Yorkshire in 2002, "a politically correct Left just saw it as racism."
Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danzcuk said that in Rotherham the prevailing values in the political class are such that "political correctness and cultural sensitivity are more important than child rape."
Denis McShane, the former MP for Rotherham said, "There was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat, if I may put it like that. "Perhaps, yes, as a true Guardian reader and liberal Leftie, I suppose I didn’t want to raise that too hard."
The revelations have caused a national outcry. One article in The Telegraph said that, "Rotherham may be the final nail in the coffin of multiculturalism." A House of Commons select committee is being established to carry out an investigation into how much the Labour government, headed by then Prime Minister Tony Blair, knew about the sexual abuse in Rotherham.
Only one major figure connected with the events has so far resigned: Labour's Roger Stone, who had been the leader of Rotherham council since 2003. Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner is being pressured to resign, but has so far resisted calls to do so, even though his deputy resigned on Thursday and called on him to do the same. Shaun Wright did resign from the Labour party, however. The controversial protest movement, the English Defence League, has been maintaining a vigil outside the police station, with the aim of forcing Mr Wright's resignation.
Other officials implicated in the affair, many of them now at other posts, have been scrambling to protect their positions and deflect blame.
Nor has the abuse been limited to white girls. Ruzwana Bashir, an Oxford educated entrepreneur, who grew up in nearby Skipton and was abused herself, revealed that, "There is a similarly rampant problem of minority girls being abused by members of their own community."
Due to a culture of "honor" and shame that surrounds the issue, members of the community routinely cover up incidents of abuse, even when it affects their own family. Ms. Bashir's mother pleaded with her not to go public with her story in order to protect her family's honor.
Read the full report here.