On Wednesday Rotherham MP Sarah Champion resigned – or rather was asked to step down – as the Shadow Equalities Minister, following her controversial article in The Sun on child sexual exploitation.
This was always going to be controversial for Champion.
Firstly, whether right or wrong, a Labour MP caught carrying Murdoch’s Sun, let alone writing for it, is quickly hounded.
More fundamentally, discussing a topic as sensitive as child sexual exploitation is incredibly difficult – particularly if you are the parliamentary representative of Rotherham.
It is difficult, not because we do not know what is right and wrong, but because we must walk a very fine line in the way we discuss the issue – particularly when the discourse can so easily err toward racism.
It is our responsibility to delicately tread that fine line, for we must not give credence to the racists and bigots who seek to smear whole communities for political gain.
It with this where Champion’s article fell on the wrong side of the line – but I believe she did so with good intentions, as an incredible fighter for the victims of abuse.
We cannot ignore the fact that in prominent cases of child sexual exploitation by gangs – see Oxford, Rochdale, Rotherham, Newcastle, Oldham, Derby, Telford, Stockport or Peterborough – members of abuse rings, who targeted un-related children based on their vulnerability (‘Type 1’ crimes), were disproportionately identified as ‘Asian’ men.
Indeed 2013 CEOP data identified these ‘Type 1’ perpetrators as ‘Asian’ 71% of the time. The majority of victims were vulnerable young white women – many of them already known to authorities, predominantly through social care.
We cannot be afraid to state these uncomfortable truths; in fact it is our duty to ensure that we do.
But it is also our duty to make clear that abusers do not commit their crimes motivated by their race or religion. They do not represent a religious or ethnic community, only a criminal community.
We must ask if white nationalist groups – who seek to exploit these issues for their bigoted, unpatriotic cause – created the same amount of noise when it was white European churches perpetrating the crimes?
Indeed why do they so rarely campaign on ‘Type 2’ crimes, committed by those motivated by long-term paedophillic interest, in which abusers are disproportionately white? 100% of the time in fact.
Of course, they would rightly say, these criminals do not represent ‘the white community’, Europeans, or whichever group one may decide to tarnish.
Whichever criminal group one decides to claim is representative of a community does so on shaky ground. The above data isn’t a comprehensive picture of the dark underground of group abuse and exploitation.
‘It’s worth remembering that child sexual abuse by lone offenders is more common than abuse by groups. What we don’t know is how many of those lone offenders are white or Asian. We should be wary of drawing too many conclusions.’ Channel 4 FactCheck
The glee with which far-right groups share awful news, with derision toward whole communities, tells us more about their motivations than their care for victims.
On the fourth anniversary of the published reported into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham we must renew our commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation wherever we find it, whoever the perpetrators and however uncomfortable it makes us feel.
What’s more, we must renew our unrelenting commitment to root out racism and bigotry wherever we find it.
Across the Western world questions are being raised as to the type of society we will be in the coming decades – lets fight for a good one.