LONDON – About 1,400 children were sexually exploited in a northern England town, a report concluded Tuesday in a damning account of “collective failures” by authorities to prevent victims as young as 11 from being beaten, raped and trafficked over a 16-year period.
Report author Alexis Jay cited appalling acts of violence between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, a town of about 250,000. The independent report came after a series of convictions of sexual predators in the region and groundbreaking reports in the Times of London.
The report described rapes by multiple perpetrators, mainly from Britain’s Pakistani community, and how children were trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated.
“There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone,” Jay said. “Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.”
The report’s author took great pains to make sure the identities of the children were not revealed, but offered a general description of the cases showing the victims were between 11 and 16 years old. Most, but not all, were girls, who are preyed upon by unrelated older men.
A sampling of case studies showed the victims first came into contact with authorities for a variety of reasons, including being reported missing from their homes, leaving school with unknown men or as victims of stalking. While most of the victims in the older cases were described as “white British children,” the report said that more recently a greater number of cases were coming from the growing Pakistani, Kashmiri and Roma communities.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street office said the lessons of past failures must be learned and those who exploited the children brought to justice.