The coverage of the appalling Rochdale grooming case has been, for the
most part, well-informed and responsible. In the Times today David Aaronovitch takes on the cultural
issue directly (£) and should be saluted for so doing.
‘So here are the bald facts about this specific kind of abuse. Men, many middle-aged and most of previous good character, and largely from one community, have been committing a
particular series of sexual crimes almost entirely against young girls. Why? Almost certainly because of their attitudes towards women and sex.’
But he saves his most important point for the end of his article when he says: ‘we ought to be mad as hell about the neglect of our most vulnerable kids.’
If it is right to challenge the Muslim community (or more precisely, the Pakistani community of the urban north west) about the systematic misogyny in its midst, then we must also ask the white
community (or more precisely the working-class community of the urban north west) about its systematic failure to protect its young women. Indeed, we probably need to ask whether there is a genuine
sense of community in these communities at all.
Paul Vallely’s special report in the Independent is also well worth reading. He
quotes Wendy Shepherd, a child sexual exploitation project manager for Barnado’s in the north of England. ‘The networks of men come from different backgrounds,’ she says.
‘in the North and Midlands many have been British Asians; in Devon it was white men; in Bath and Bristol, Afro-Caribbeans; in London, all ethnic mixes, whites, Iraqis, Kurds, Afghans,
Somalis. The danger with saying that the problem is with one ethnicity is that then people will only be on the lookout for that group — and will risk missing other threats.’
Julie Bindel in the Guardian is, as always, challenging in her analysis. Her position is
clear and, as is so often the case, utterly sane:
‘It is my firm belief, based on interviews with a number of victims, family members, campaigners and professionals such as police and social workers, that where the gangs are of Asian
origin there has been a tendency in some areas of England to ignore the issue for fear of being branded racist. I have also been clear that ethnicity of perpetrators is indeed relevant, in that
folk seem to be more interested and appalled by criminal gangs raping girls when the gang is Asian. Contrary to what the British National party would have us believe, this is not an epidemic of
Pakistani child abusers abusing white girls — it is more that we as a society ignore the voices of those who know best about child abuse: the victims and their advocates.
The uncomfortable truth is that there is complacency about organised sexual exploitation, which leads to few convictions regardless of the ethnicity of the perpetrators.’
The truth is that this case illustrates a tragic truth about this country: we do not look after our children and young people well enough. The lessons from Rochdale should not be
preached by one community to another. They are lessons for all of us individually and collectively.