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Child Rape and the Roots of Political Anger: Grooming Gangs in Context

Ordinary working-class people are rightly appalled by the prevalence of all forms of sexual abuse. Every year tens of thousands of adults and children suffer from sexual violence, predominantly at the hands of violent men, often family members. And every year thousands of people, especially those living in Britain’s poorest communities, suffer disproportionate injustice at the hands of the State. This applies as much to the victims themselves, as it does to the public who must suffer the indignation of seeing wealthy rapists escaping meaningful justice because they can afford the best lawyers money can buy.

It is well-known that money can buy virtual immunity from the law, and the poorer a suspected criminal is, the more likely it is that they will not be able to access even the more basic forms of defence within our legal system. Contrast, for instance, the establishment’s disgusting defence of powerful serial abusers like Jimmy Savile with the large number of working-class people who are coerced into pleading guilty to crimes to which they have not committed.

This institutional injustice has been further worsened over the past decade because of the devastating effects of austerity – that is the transfer of wealth and resources from the working-class to the super-rich.  This is concretely seen in low pay, bad working conditions, but also in the ongoing attacks upon basic much-needed community facilities, like youth services and rape crisis centres.

Victims of sexual violence, particularly when they grow up in poor working-class communities, face further injustices too. The elitist establishment has promoted victim-blaming when it comes to the rape of the poor and marginalised. Pamela Cox, professor of history and sociology at the University of Essex, explains:

Investigations into child sexual exploitation rings in Rochdale and elsewhere suggest that the girls involved were effectively demonised by many agencies. They were viewed by many in the police and social services as ‘chaotic’, cast as unruly, unreliable and unwilling to accept advice or support offered.”

Historically, such problems have been amplified by ignorant anti-working-class politicians, like Blairite Simon Danczuk (MP for Rochdale between 2010 and 2016), whose regular diatribes against socialist ideas were featured in the Daily Mail. And here we should be reminded that it was an article carried in Rupert Murdoch’s Tory newspaper (The Times) in January 2011 that first kicked off the Islamophobic hysteria revolving around the existence of Asian grooming gangs. Murdoch and his newspapers of course having previously played a critical role in celebrating the rise to power of Tony Blair’s now-despised New Labour.

In this regard Murdoch and his friends in the Tory press were able to perpetuate their divisive and highly racialized Islamophobic reporting on the issue of grooming gangs precisely because they could rely upon New Labour’s open rejection of class politics. As Ella Cockbain, a researcher at UCL’s department of security and crime sciencereported in 2013, this deadly combination provided “ready ammunition to right-wing extremist groups” which “have been quick to capitalise on the establishment’s perceived failure and the new social legitimacy of anti-Asian sentiment”.

Pre-empting the ongoing Tommy Robinson debacle, Cockbain noted how:

“The British National Party (BNP) narrowly missed rendering a recent prosecution of a major CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] case a mistrial after its leader tweeted the supposed verdicts while the jury was still deliberating. The English Defence League (EDL) caused a two-week delay to the same trial after attacking two (Asian) defence barristers outside the court: such actions endanger defendants’ right to a fair trial, prolong the traumatic prosecution experience for complainants and incur considerable public costs. Meanwhile, perceiving the OCCE report as a ‘whitewash’, Britain First posted the Deputy Children’s Commissioner’s home address online and circulated it to thousands of supporters, placing her and her family at direct personal risk.” (“Grooming and the ‘Asian sex gang predator’: the construction of a racial crime threat”)

Child Sexual Exploitation cases, like that undertaken by grooming gangs, represent a tiny proportion of the total number of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases that take place every year. Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales clearly show the “two offences most clearly associated with CSE – abuse of children through sexual exploitation and sexual grooming – make up 3.0% of police recorded CSA cases in England and 2.0% of cases in Wales.”

We should also be aware that 42% of Child Sexual Abuse cases are carried out by family members, with another 8% by carried out by “partners or former partners”; and observe that the problem of sexual abuse extends across society with 3% of all women and 1% of all men report having been abused (via penetrative sexual assaults) as a child.

None of this stops the lies in the newspapers. The toxic nature of biased and racialised interventions by both the mainstream media and establishment politicians continues to act as a very real barrier to our collective ability to deal with the systemic nature of sexual crimes, whether that be against children or adults.

But there is no point in pleading to the corporate media or establishment politicians to stop dividing the working-class with their fearmongering along racial and gendered lines; they know exactly what they are doing.

The political and economic establishment will do everything in its power to prevent the majority of us, the working-class, from organising to remove them from their high-and-mighty thrones. So, it makes sense that the same Establishment that seeks to divide us will use the mainstream media (be that the BBC or the Daily Mail) to spread lies and misinformation that undermine our ability to fight to improve our lives.

The majority of politicians from all political persuasions (be that UKIP or New Labour) have categorically failed us all. At a fundamental level this is because such politicians have been more concerned with catering to the needs of the corporate Establishment than they have with fighting to enrich the lives of an increasingly frustrated and angry electorate.

Instead, we must now seize the future for ourselves and join Jeremy Corbyn and the hundreds of thousands of new Labour Party members in reclaiming the Labour Party from the Blairites and transforming it into a fighting organization for the entire working-class.

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Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).

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