Over a thousand children were allegedly raped, beaten and sexually exploited over a 16-year period in the northern English town of Rotherham, a newly released report says.
At least 1,400 cases of sexual abuse occurred between the years of 1997 and 2013. That’s a conservative estimate, according to the report that says the abuse reached a level tantamount to torture.
“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,” reads a portion of the report, according to CNN.
“Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators,” the inquiry says.
The report cites an inability by local officials to communicate across cultural barriers as one of the many reasons the abuse in the largely Muslim community was allowed to continue for so many years.
The perpetrators were mostly of Pakistani heritage; many of the victims were white females, according to the report that says many officials feared being labeled as racist if they chose to pursue charges in the alleged incidents. They also feared social backlash from other groups that might unjustly attack innocent members of the Pakistani community.
“Several (counselors) interviewed believed that by opening up these issues they could be 'giving oxygen' to racist perspectives that might in turn attract extremist political groups and threaten community cohesion. To some extent this concern was valid, with the apparent targeting of the town by groups such as the English Defence League,” the report says.
The blistering report, compiled by Professor Alexis Jay, was ordered by Rotherham’s council and its release prompted the resignation of the council’s leader Roger Stone.
“Having considered the report, I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so,” Stone said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “For this reason, I have today agreed with my Labour group colleagues that I will be stepping down as leader with immediate effect.”
In the wake of the inquiry’s release, The Telegraph reports that Rotherham police have investigated an additional 160 sexual exploitation cases in the past year. Although aware of the ongoing problem, the department reportedly only has three staff members assigned to the unit tasked with investigating sex abuse.
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