A report by Prof Alexis Jay exposed shocking abuse and exploitation of at least 1,400 children as young as 11 in Rotherham over 16 years. Jay describes 'blatant' collective failures of the care system, police and local politicians. One of those children, now an adult, writes to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling:
My name is Jessica (not my real name) and I am now 29. I am one of the 1,400 survivors that was groomed in Rotherham.
In summer 1999, just after my 14th birthday, I met my abuser who had just been released from prison. He was 24, married with two children and known to the authorities as a dangerous man and part of a grooming gang.
I was abused mentally, sexually and physically for more than two years.
Just a few days after meeting him my parents contacted the police to press charges. The police refused to act as they said I was consenting to my own abuse.
I went missing from home and school for days, weeks and months. On those occasions, police found me in hotels, houses, flats, cars and on one occasion caught us both in bed together half naked. They arrested me and he was allowed to walk away without even being questioned.
I was made pregnant twice by him, firstly when I was 14 and then again when I was 15 and in the care of social services. I first had a termination and then had a son the second time, who is now a teenager.
Because the authorities refused to arrest my abuser, my parents placed me in care hoping that they would stop the abuse. My foster carer and social worker met my abuser and told him he had to collect me from the top of the street and I had to arrive back for 10pm. He was even allowed to attend appointments with me and went on a holiday to Skegness with me and my foster carers.
Not only was he sexually abusing me but he was extremely violent towards me and my family. I have lost count of how many times he beat me and tried to kill me.
He has tried throwing me over a balcony and attacking my son when he was just a few months old, he drove into two parked cars and hit a wall, dragged me to the edge of a cliff and threatened to throw me off, set my flat on fire while me and my son were inside, assaulted my father, smashed my mother’s car up, tried to run over my sister and partner and even when I had a court order against him (because the police wouldn’t act), he had someone outside my flat 24 hours a day until I moved house and I had to stop contact with everyone I knew.
I had a few years to rebuild my life, with no support or counselling. But he threatened to kill me again in March 2010 and February 2013. Again I rang the police and had to move house. I spoke to the police again in March 2013 and wanted to make a complaint that I was groomed, but again the police didn’t take me seriously.
It was in my last hope that I contacted Andrew Norfolk of The Times newspaper and hoped if my story was published that the authorities would take things seriously. The police tried to stop the story going to print but failed and it was published in August 2013.
Even after this the authorities did not believe me and have tried making things very difficult for me. I’ve had social workers just a few months ago telling me because I have made a statement to the police and media that I am putting my children’s lives at risk.
Despite all of this, I want to raise awareness for victims and survivors like myself to help prevent this happening to anyone else.
I believe if I had had the correct support and counselling when I was a child it would have helped me and my son have a more stable and structured life.
I am on the waiting list to receive counselling so I am writing to you to ask you to put more funding into the help and support of abuse victims and if possible help them to build a future.
I feel stopping sexual abuse of children should be a priority and can only happen if the correct funding and agencies are in place.
I feel not enough is being done, not just in Rotherham but also around the country. If our authorities are seen to be taking things more seriously more victims will come forward and have faith they will be listened to and helped.