Remembering The Rochdale Child Sex Abuse Ring

The scandal shocked all of Great Britain. Nine men were eventually convicted of sex abuse crimes included rape, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and conspiracy, after which another investigation found that more men were involved in keeping at least 47 girls as part of a child sex abuse ring. The investigations resulted in apologies from the Manchester police force, which failed to recognize and investigate these atrocities. 

These sent the Muslim community reeling, because eight of those convicted men were British Pakistani — most of whom were respected members of the Muslim community before their fall from grace.

Child sexual abuse survivors often experience symptoms of depression, suicidal thoughts, inability to socialize, and anxiety. Many struggle to find good paying jobs.  It is important to recognize that the consequences of this kind of crime last forever. Simply uncovering such abuse and putting those who perpetrate it behind bars is not enough. We need to approach the survivors and provide them with lifelong medical and therapeutic assistance. 

It’s important that we never forget what happened — and that we never stop striving to keep our kids safe from those who would do them harm.

The young girls who were a part of this ring were especially vulnerable to coercion, taken from environments in which they were already deprived. These girls were provided with alcohol, drugs, financial assistance, and food in order to see they remained quiet about what was being done to them behind closed doors. 

One of the lead traffickers, Shabir Ahmed, forced a girl to engage in sexual intercourse with co-trafficker Kabeer Hassan as a birthday gift. She was raped. But this kind of criminal activity was the least of the girls’ problems. They were often raped by more than one man at a time. According to courtroom documents, they were coerced into having sex with “several men in a day, several times a week.” One girl was convinced to seek an abortion when she became pregnant following one of the rapes.

The perpetrators cried foul during courtroom hearings, arguing that the trial and sentencing were a matter of race and had nothing to do with the nature of the criminal activity.

The public reaction was strong. Labor MP Ann Cryer asked the Muslim community to respond: “I went to a friend of mine, who was a local councilor and happened to be a Muslim and therefore able to represent me to the elders, because I thought it was a good move to try to get those elders involved. I hoped that I would be able to persuade the elders to go knocking on doors and say ‘this behavior is un-Islamic and I want it to stop because I’m going to tell the whole community about you and what you’re doing if you don’t.’”

Unfortunately, our community failed to meet the call to action.

Chief Executive Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation said that Pakistani elders had “[buried] their heads in the sand” when it came to the crime of sexual grooming. He described the shame that had been showered upon the entire community because of the inaction.