So, another grooming scandal comes to our attention, almost identical in all respects to those we have seen before.
Horrific abuse of young vulnerable girls by older men of predominantly Pakistani heritage, where those in authority did not listen and failed to act.
We see yet another senior official explain to the media that: this took place some years ago, it wouldn’t happen now, and that anyway it was occurring across the country, so really there is nothing very remarkable here.
What we have not heard is any hint of an apology. We have never heard anyone say:“we got it wrong, we ignored these girls, we let them down, we are sorry.”But then the State will never say it got it wrong. It wriggles, it squirms and it blusters – anything not to admit to short comings, anything to protect their own interests, their jobs, their pensions.
The horror of these cases is that those in authority all took the same attitude towards the powerless young women. Men in power, (and yes, they were men – senior council officials, councillors, police officers) did not just look away, they ‘othered’ these girls. In the same way as the perpetrators dehumanised them, so too did the authorities. They saw them as trouble, as making a lifestyle choice, as bringing it on themselves. It was lack of empathy for a fellow human being that allowed this crime to go unchecked.
Until those in authority take responsibility and recognise it was their failings that allowed the perpetrators to go on abusing these girls, then this crime will continue. It is wrong to dismiss this as historic. We are in danger of not listening all over again if we do not recognise that it happens today.
The job of an MP is to hold those in power to account, to challenge the State on behalf of those least able to speak for themselves. MPs must not be afraid to do that, no matter what criticism they may attract from those who would rather nothing was said. By staying silent we betray victims all over again.
And we must never lose sight of the victims. Support to rebuild lives of those who suffered must be a priority for this Government. There are many victims who did not get justice and are still suffering and we must now focus on them and their future.