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English girls vulnerable to serious violence and exploitation but invisible to state

Vulnerable girls in England at risk of exploitation.

As many as 60,000 girls in England are vulnerable to serious violence but invisible with most gang prevention services aimed at boys, girls and their plight, however, are, for all intents and purposes, ignored by the state.

On July 19th, 2023, Sky News released an unnerving report on the deplorable conditions of thousands of girls in England.

The most common risk that is posed towards boys and young men is violence, gun violence and stuff, whereas for girls, it's not only physical violence or sexual abuse and exploitation; it's emotional abuse, mental abuse, and a lot of professionals within our field you know, they put us in under that bracket, that box that even I was in as complex needs.

And essentially what that means is that, you know, we've endured so much trauma, or had so many traumatic experiences, that they don't know what to do with us. They don't know where to start.

Aliya Ali, founder of Daddyless Daughters

According to the news channel, as many as 60,000 girls in England, often in gangs, are vulnerable to serious violence but are invisible with most gang prevention services aimed at boys.

The Metropolitan Police has found that a third of those affected by gangs are women, despite making up only 0.2% of London's known gang associated population.

According to the charity Redthread revealed that 38% of the vulnerable youths attending hospital in 2023 were female.

These reports are all indicative of gross negligence in caring for the fate of thousands of girls trapped in organized crime gangs.

While the most common risk young men are facing is violence, for girls, physical violence is invariably accompanied by sexual abuse and exploitation, not to mention the psychological trauma, which will undoubtedly haunt them for the rest of their lives.

In the words of Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, it is now clear that thousands of girls are being harmed, sexually assaulted, raped or controlled, in a way and on a scale, that is not being recognized.

To be honest, the embarrassing fact has been clear for a long time. Every now and then, some revelations of this kind rock the United Kingdom, with no meaningful measures taken by the authorities.

In November 2019, for example, The Guardian published a report uncannily similar to the one recently published by Sky News with this headline: "Thousands of girl gang members are trapped in a cycle of violence and abuse".

Figures given in The Guardian article, similarly suggested that up to 34% of children involved in gangs are girls.

The same year another tragic revelation came laying bare the complexity and seriousness of the issue. It was about a 16 year old girl who had been sexually abused since she was 12, while supposedly under the protection of children's social care in Sheffield.

The girl "Laura", a pseudonym used to protect her identity, had been sexually exploited by over 40 adults while she was in care.

The scandal showed that neither the girls in gangs, nor the girls in care, are immune from sexual exploitation.

According to Kathryn Kelwick, who manages post-abuse services at the Swinton Lock charity in Rotherham, the level of care and supervision "Laura" received at the hospital had been appalling, with her being treated worse than an animal.

But perhaps the most appalling case in which the girls in danger were ignored is what came to be known as the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.

The scandal consists of the organized child sexual abuse that occurred in the town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire in northern England from the late 1980s until early 2014.

He would rape me once a week, every week.

And then that's when he started to gain control over me and when I started to fear him, and not just him but everybody else within that gang and I'd have to have sex with his cousins, or whoever wanted to have sex with me, and I had very much become like an object and that's how they're treated.

Laura, Victim of abuse

It was a glaring example of the failure of local authorities to act on reports of abuse throughout most of that period.

Professor Alexis Jay, the Independent Chair of the Center for Excellence for Children's Care and Protection, found that 1400 children, almost all of them underage girls, were sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

I blame them, as much as I do my perpetrator, and I at least want an apology for the way that I was treated, as a child, I didn't know any different, but as an adult woman, I now know that the way I was treated was not correct, was not right, and shouldn't have happened, and not just with me, but then continue to happen with other people [sic].

Laura, Victim of abuse

But the offences went unprosecuted, despite police protection agencies in Rotherham having had knowledge of these crimes for decades.

If all of the authorities involved, officers and members, had been less concerned with their own agendas and prejudices, and kept their focus on the children's welfare, some of these children might not have suffered the abuse and brutality we read about and heard about.

Alexis Jay, Chair, Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection

We all have a responsibility to protect our young people from these predators. But it's clear from today's report that we, the council, and other agencies that work with us, failed in that duty for a significant period of time; for this, I am deeply sorry.

Martin Kimber, Former Chief Executive of Rotherham Council

The British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, said child sex abuse had to be classified as a national threat as he announced a series of measures to prevent systematic abuse.

And now about a decade later, the UK seems to be back to square one, at least when it comes to girls.

Girls and young women from all demographics are targeted by gang members, and used to transport drugs and weapons from urban areas to rural locations and coastal towns. A girl's usefulness to a gang however, is not limited to holding or transporting illicit items. In fact, studies show that there are several roles gang associated women or girls can take.

For example, "wifies" are the girlfriends of gang members and "baby mothers" are those who have had children with them. "Links" on the other hand, are girls who can be as young as 12, and are expected to have individual or group sex with gang members at any time.

According to a 2017 report by the National Crime Agency, NCA, sexual exploitation is a serious risk factor associated with the county lines drugs gangs.

In some cases, young women are pimped out to settle drug deaths. While these girls are all trapped in a cycle of threats, intimidation and violence, officials have long been looking the other way.

It would appear that what is at play here is some sort of systematic, misogynistic, discrimination against female victims in society.

The girls in England still have an uphill battle to make themselves seen, their suffering recognized, and, their trauma recovered.

Despite all the women's rights activism in the spotlight, these poor unfortunate souls have been out of sight and out of mind for years, and it would seem they have a long way to go before getting as much attention and support as boys do.

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