OLD BAILEY OPINION: “No community is safe from child sexual exploitation”
Six of the 11 accused men were found guilty on Friday, which is testament to the brave victims and witnesses that came forward.
As a journalist it is my job to remain impartial, and report a fair and balanced picture of the trial as it unfolds.
Some of the accused men were found not guilty and can leave with their reputations intact.
Many details given in court about those who were found guilty are too graphic to print in this newspaper. This gives a hint of what these girls truly suffered.
I honestly believe that this could happen to any child, in any community, and covering a case like this made me reflect on my own adolescent near-misses.
This type of thing is everywhere. There are plenty of men, of all colours, backgrounds and religions, actively trying to take advantage of naive young girls.
Unfortunately, there are also plenty of young naive girls, particularly those with vulnerabilities and family problems, who are bound to be susceptable.
This is not their fault, and as a society I feel that we need to stop thinking that a troubled child can be anything other than simply that.
They are never ‘asking for it’ and they are never ‘easy’.
Just because they ‘consented’ at the time, and just because at times they enjoyed the attention they received, it does not mean that it wasn’t abuse.
When you are young you think you know it all, you are often hard to get on with, and if there is no guidance or support from friends, family, or professionals you are left to make your own, often risky decisions.
Please can we all learn from this, and never forget to watch out for signs of child sexual exploitation in the young people that we know.
These men are clever and cunning. They hide in plain sight and will do whatever it takes to charm you.
And their brainwashed victims will do everything they can to protect them, because afterall they are their friends, their ‘boyfriends’ and their source of ‘love’.
Their heads are filled with compliments, ‘kindness’ and ‘friendship’ from these warped men, who prey on their vulnerabilities.
Even if they try to end contact, these men will flatter and persist until they are infatuated again – so that the vicious cycle of power and abuse can continue, in some cases for years.
In court I have watched these brave, brave girls give evidence, and there is no doubt that they will carry the actions of the guilty with them forever.
But I hope that they can both take real comfort in knowing they did the right thing, and that the men who were truly responsible have now been brought to book.
If you want to know more about how to spot signs of child sexual exploitation go to www.barnardos.org.uk/rusafebucks.htm