The last few weeks has seen various reports and stories of teenagers being groomed and abused by gangs, with the BBC drama Three Girls bringing the stark realities of the Rochdale abuse scandal into our living rooms, and the controversial storyline of Bethany Platt in Coronation Street, featuring a young girl being groomed and passed around a group of men who sexually abuse her.
Unsurprisingly, both programmes have brought about strong reactions from the public, from complaints to Ofcom in relation to the harrowing scenes on Coronation Street; to petitions on other hand for Three Girls to be shown as an educational programme in schools to raise awareness of child sex exploitation.
Whilst both have been excellent in raising awareness of this exploitation and bringing it to the public eye, child sex abuse is not only an historic problem but an ongoing issue in many of our cities and there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of ensuring that future generations of children are properly protected.
Jonathan Bridge is a specialist abuse lawyer at Farleys Solicitors and has represented many victims of gang related abuse, including victims of the Rochdale paedophile gangs.
He said: “year on year we are seeing an increase in the numbers of people coming to us to report cases of abuse, both ongoing and historic – some of which people would find even more shocking than what they have seen on television recently.”
Jonathan has recently settled a claim on behalf of a victim of a Middlesbrough sex abuse gang, who approached Farleys in November 2015.
As with many victims in this type of situation, this girl had suffered familial abuse before being taken into care. She had been sexually and physically abused by her father, step father and cousin and by the age of 12 was desperately in need of help. She was taken into the care of Middlesbrough Social Services.
What then transpired is that instead of receiving the help and nurturing that she required, this girl found herself in an even more desperate position and became a child prostitute. Whilst in the care of Middlesbrough Council she began frequenting the red light district, having sex with multiple individuals. She suffered repeated STI’s from the age of 13 and became dependent on cannabis and later heroin. She describes that at the age of 12/13 she started associating with older, mostly Asian men who would buy her drink and drugs and have sex with her.
By the age of 16 she was involved in a relationship with a violent partner who raped her and physically assaulted her. As she got older the only work that she could find was in massage parlours and was left with a criminal record in relation to her drug use and for assaults on others whilst in care.
Understandably, as a result of this long period of abuse this girl has been left with numerous psychiatric problems, including severe depression and a personality disorder.
She approached Farleys Solicitors in order to bring legal action and secure some accountability from Middlesbrough Council and its social services department, who had let her down in such a terrible way, and received £100,000 by way of a settlement for what she had gone through.
“Sadly this case is sadly typical of many of the abuse claims we are presently dealing with. She was badly let down by the Local Authority and as a result suffered sexual abuse when she was at her most vulnerable. The impact of this abuse is life-long. The settlement we have achieved will certainly not make up for what she has been through but will help her fund treatment which may give her a better future.
“Cases such as this are shocking and people find it difficult to believe that someone has gone through such an ordeal. What’s even more shocking is that this is still happening, in Middlesbrough, in Rochdale, Rotherham and across the country.
“There have recently been various operations in the Cleveland area by the Police including Operation Sponge, Operation Fibre, Operation Grenadier, Operation Destiny and Operation Safestay, all of which related to potential abuse in the Cleveland and Middlesbrough area. In the year between September 2014 and August 2015 Cleveland Police’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) executed 53 search warrants and arrested 86 suspects charging offenders with 54 separate offences resulting in safeguarding action being taken in relation to 95 children. This is not only an historic problem but an ongoing issue in many of our cities.
“We just hope that the lessons are learned from cases such as this to ensure the protection of our future generations.”