Rotherham sex ring survivor backs WMP child exploitation campaign
A survivor of the Rotherham sex abuse ring − who helped bring down the paedophile network by disclosing years of abuse − is backing a West Midlands Police and community project aimed at tackling child exploitation.
Sammy Woodhouse broke the silence over the Rotherham grooming gang in 2013 by telling how ringleader Arshad Hussain had abused her from the age of 14.
Her evidence sparked a police investigation that exposed the extent of the abuse, identified 1,400 child victims and led to 20 men being jailed for almost 300 years.
Since then Sammy, now 32, has worked to raise awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) to ensure authorities are better able to expose offenders − helping influence policies and procedures − and ensure victims feel confident to confide offences and are supported.
And she’s now agreed to play a lead role in a Walsall project that will see her deliver a series of talks to schoolchildren aimed at empowering them to speak out against offenders and not to suffer exploitation in silence.
Sammy will be spending time at West Walsall E-Act Academy on Primley Avenue, on Thursday (Jan 25) as part of the #iMatterWalsall initiative − alongside Delves neighbourhood police officers − where she’ll deliver inputs to pupils from Year 7 to Sixth Form.
She said: “I’m really excited about the project. This is exactly what police and communities should be doing: talking openly about CSE, addressing the issue and empowering children to confide in teachers, parents or police officers.
“I know first-hand that children who are suffering need to know the authorities are on their side, they can speak out on confidence, will be believed, and not be prosecuted for any offences they may have been groomed or coerced into committing.
“I’m confident the #iMatterWalsall can make a genuine difference, help protect vulnerable youngsters and catch offenders."
West Midlands Police already works with partner agencies across the region to promote See Me, Hear Me − a campaign designed to raise awareness of CSE, protect children from abuse, and encourage people to report suspicious activity.
And the force hopes to continue working with Sammy and roll out the schools project across the wider West Midlands region.
Superintendent Sue Parker from Walsall Police said Sammy’ s involvement will help build on existing awareness raising work and help the force reach a wider audience.
She added: “It’s fantastic Sammy has committed to this project: hearing her insight into CSE from a survivor’s perspective will be hugely valuable for the children and indeed our own officers.
“The initiative builds on CSE prevention work already delivered in Walsall as part of West Midland Police’s Operation Sentinel which shines a light on hidden crimes like CSE.
“Neighbourhood officers and specialist support workers will host regular drop-in sessions at the school to ensure they become familiar, trusted faces that children feel comfortable to approach should they want to talk.
“And we will distribute CSE awareness leaflets to parents and work with key partners to hold events for parents and communities focusing on the topic. This shouldn’t be a taboo subject − that’s how offenders escape detection − so the project is all about having those discussions."
Academy head teacher Qamar Riaz, added: “We have an extensive safeguarding curriculum within the academy and cover various sensitive issues with the support of student’s parents and carers.
“I’m really pleased Sammy is coming to speak to our students regarding the risks posed by Child Sexual Exploitation. The #iMatterWalsall initiative is a great example of a co-ordinated response to help safeguard our youngsters."