It's a ghastly story.
But here are some observations and comments about the matter, which I can't help worrying about, in spite of the near overwhelming revulsion the story provokes. I feel I have to say that nothing that follows is intended to excuse or exculpate the offenders - both the rapists and the police and social workers and others who failed in their duty. Nor is it meant to minimise, nor dismiss, the offending that took place. These brutes molested naive, foolish, weak or helpless girls. They abused them with unspeakable cruelty and selfish, perverted wickedness. They deserve to rot in jail forever.
But, first of all, we need to keep a sense of perspective here. There is no acceptable level of rape, child abuse or sexual crime. None. But in the blaring headlines of the newspapers - which are quick to trumpet the number of victims as 1,400 - it is easy to lose sight of the time scale over which these crimes took place. The report specified the number was a conservative estimate of the number of victims abused between 1997 and 2013; a period of 15 years.
(Again, I must repeat: there is no acceptable level of rape, child abuse or sexual crime. None.)
That means roughly one hundred offences a year over that period. That's one hundred too many, for those still not getting it. But it is important to keep that fact in mind. There are some people who want us to get carried away, lose perspective and give in to the rage and revulsion, which is why they keep repeating the total, without the time scale. Keep them both in mind, otherwise we are doing yet another disservice to the victims - a minor on, perhaps, but real for all that - by allowing their suffering and neglect to be used as propaganda.
For what it is worth, I looked to see how many children are in danger of sexual abuse in Britain. These figures are, of course, very hard to verify, for all the usual reasons surrounding sexual crime and particularly sexual crime against children - the reluctance of victims to speak out, the difficultly in gathering evidence and so on. The NSPCC advises that 23,000 children were victims of sexual offending in a year. Obviously, there is a lot we don't know about those 23,000 victims: like how severe the offences were; whether it was a typical year or not; or how many of the offenders were themselves children. But it does suggest that the offending that is being screamed about in such garish terms by the newspapers and blaring from our televisions is, tragically, just a small part of a massive and terrible war against children by perverts and deviants and paedophiles.
This is important because it is hard - probably impossible - to gauge how much higher than 'average' the offending described in Rotherham is compared to the 'background' rate of offending. Which isn't to say we shouldn't be incensed about it. We should always be incensed by paedophiles, child molesters, rapists and sexual offenders. But it isn't clear that we always are.
Randeep Ramesh, writing in the Guardian, has a go at extrapolating a bigger picture:
This level of abuse appears to make Rotherham the nation's child sex exploitation capital. If the town's experience was replicated across the country, England would have 19,000 children criminally abused by gangs every year. The children's commissioner thinks that at the moment the figure is about 2,000.Again, there are a multitude of questions raised by this analysis. I think he has simply based it on the population of Rotherham (250,000) and an offending rate of about 100 incidents per year, and then factored in the population of England (about 55 million), which gives you a similar enough figure.
Though interesting, the analysis falls apart as it assumes that the offences attributed to the rapists in Rotherham were the only sexual offences against children reported there - which is, unfortunately, probably not the case. But it is interesting to note that the figure he arrives at isn't too far off the NSPCC figure given earlier. Which might, in turn, suggest the rate offending by these scum in Rotherham is actually similar to the rate of offending by scum in other places.
So, that's one conclusion, if you could call it that. I don't know what it means, so conclusion is probably entirely the wrong word. That's one thought - that the offending described in the Jay report might, unfortunately, not be at all atypical or extreme. That people with similar predilections are committing similar acts against the seemingly endless number of neglected children who aresuch easy prey for remorseless predators.
Which might prompt us to wonder, why are these crimes so deeply shocking and so very newsworthy?
I don't think we can escape the racial / cultural angle here so we might as well be honest about it. We have a situation where men of Pakistani / Muslim heritage were deliberately targeting predominantly white and certainly non-Muslim girls. It is easy to give into the atavistic reaction that this is some sort of cultural war; that they were abusing and degrading these girls because they were white (predominantly) and non-Muslim and thus less than human. I think it is simpler than that, and they targeted the girls the targeted because they were available. Men inclined to abuse and degrade girls are not necessarily stupid; they are simply evil. That doesn't mean they are so foolish as to target vulnerable children within their own community, however, where the risk of being caught is high, and the risk of suffering brutal summary justice even higher. Why bother, when there is a legion of vulnerable and neglected white girls running wild in the street, so starved of affection and lacking in self esteem or self preservation instincts that they will naively believe the crude advances and empty promises of an exotic stranger in a flash car, proffering tacky gifts? After all, British society had clearly shown they had little interest in what happened to these girls. They were raised in neglect, schooled in neglect, and - if they had been given a few more years - would have been left to eke out whatever pitiful existence they could on benefits, through prostitution, petty crime or meagre, insecure work. It was abundantly clear that Britain did not care for these girls. The newspapers didn't care, the six o'clock news did not care. Not until after they had become victims.
So perhaps part of the violence of our reaction, the visceral sickness these crimes make us feel, is the guilty knowledge that decades of selfishness and individualism and neglect of the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable has contributed to this. The predators simply picked off the ones that we had decided didn't matter enough to care for and protect.
Whic, I repeat, is not intended to excuse or exculpate the offenders. Nor is it meant to minimise, nor dismiss, the offending that took place. These brutes molested naive, foolish, weak or helpless girls. They abused them with unspeakable cruelty and selfish, perverted wickedness. They deserve to rot in jail forever.
But there is plenty of blame and guilt to go round.
Which brings us to the other strange phenomenon of the coverage of this case - the way the papers have been quick to blame the failure of the police and social services on 'political correctness' and the fear of being accused of 'racism.' This is a strange idea indeed. The British police force is many things, but it is not noted for being overly sensitive to the feelings or needs of minority ethnic individuals or groups. It's hard to give much credence to that suggestion that same institution which brought you stop and search campaigns that disproportionately targeted black people, which could barely bring itself to investigate the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, and which shot dead Charles de Menezes for the crime of looking a bit foreign, would be very concerned about hurting the feelings of the local Muslim population.
(Though even a moments reflection would lead any sane mind to the conclusion that the local Muslim population would probably approve of sexual offenders in its midst being arrested and tried. There have not, after all, been mass riots following the breaking up of the multiple rings of sexual offenders. Guess what - Muslims, like the rest of us, are repelled by child abusers!)
It's far more likely that the police are guilty of misogyny, not over sensitivity to racial sensibility. When incidents were reported, they were not properly investigated. The most likely reasons being that the police did not care too much about the misfortunes of a few girls who had been stupid enough to get themselves into trouble with some nasty thugs. After all, as I pointed out a few paragraphs ago, Britain as a whole had basically shrugged its collective shoulders and decided not to bother too much about these girls. The negligence of the police was just another example of the negligence they had experienced through out their young lives.
(This is not to condemn all police equally, however - many individuals may have tried to follow up complaints, before being warned off or told not to waste their time or simply been swamped by the number of other cases they had to deal with. And some forces did take steps - like Operation Engage - to combat street grooming. And it must be remembered that it is inevitably someone in the police who brings these monsters to justice. They can feel a bit less guilty than the rest of us.)
Ultimately, however, it comes down to the same problem that investigations into allegations of sexual abuse always face - the reluctance of victims to come forwards, the difficulty in gaining strong testimony and sound evidence. These are compounded massively when the victims are children. So it isn't too surprising to me that these offenders were able to continue to offend for years. Many paedophiles and sexual offenders have benefited from this. Jimmy Saville being one recent, startling example. His methodology was strikingly similar to the street grooming gangs being considered here - enticements, abuse and threats to intimidate the victims. And his offending was carried out over decades. And when some of his victims dared to complain to the police they were dismissed, because of the same scepticism that so many rape victims have to confront. And he was allowed to carry on abusing.
Without being a Muslim, or Pakistani, of course.
Or consider this paedophile ring, which operated for three decades. Again, without featuring Muslims or Pakistanis.
It's outlandish and strange to suggest that fear of being called racist or undue deference to 'political correctness' led to these scum being able to continue to offend when so many other examples can be found of other long lived paedophile and child abuse rings. It is, simply, how it goes.
So why the strange fixation on the racial aspect, the alleged political correctness and the fear of causing offence? I think this takes us back to where we started. This is not about the reporting of facts. This is news as propaganda. There is a purpose here, to strengthen those who seek to sow division and strife. The response of Muslim communities to the revelation of child abusers in their midst has been the same as as that of any other community experiencing a similar discovery - shock, revulsion and guilt. But that has not satisfied the clamouring voices of the UKIP backing, Labour hating tabloids. They must have known, the line goes. It's impossible that they could have been as ignorant of the monsters among them as we are to the monsters that walk our streets. even though no one ever demands the white British community (of which I am part) apologises or accounts for the depredation of Jimmy Saville, Fred West, the Yorkshire Ripper, or any of the vermin that we somehow too frequently produce, it is demanded of Muslims.
Because hen we are faced with our own guilt in this atrocity - our own shameful neglect of swathes of our population that has been abandoned to perdition - it is easier to blame someone else. Yes, the predators deserve every iota of blame available to them, but they did not create the situation where so many girls were left vulnerable to them. They 'merely' took advantage of it. We allowed ourselves to believe the glib promises of politicians that social services could somehow operate on thin air, without us having to pay for it.
Any when we see the results, a system in collapse and a list of victim that defies comprehension, abused over years with apparently impunity, it is a Hell of a lot easier to blame anyone other than ourselves. Especially abstract concepts like 'political correctness' or 'anti-racism.'
But repeating comforting lies and shibboleths won't help make us feel better, really.
And it certainly wont help the thousands of children being abused by evil predators right now.