As a group of Muslim and Christian leaders, we came together to set up Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation (FACES) in 2016. We are committed to facing abuse where it happens in our own faith communities, facing victims instead of turning away, and facing down harmful narratives that equate any faith or ethnicity with sexual abuse. So we are dismayed to see our Prime Minister and Home Secretary paint a narrow and misleading picture of the very real issue of sexual abuse, by focusing on ‘grooming gangs’ and that they say are made up primarily of Pakistani men.
They are absolutely right to say that victims have been ignored and failed by authorities, and that justice has rarely been served. It is a sad fact that this is true of all forms of abuse. Everywhere it happens, cultures of ‘turning a blind eye’ should be addressed. But they are absolutely wrong to say this is driven by political correctness. The Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse, and the testimony of 7,300 victims, shows us conclusively that every single institution, the family, sports clubs, faith groups, schools etc are sites where sexual abuse is perpetrated and in which victims have been ignored and let down. Furthermore a Home Office report published in 2020 on ‘group-based child sexual exploitation’ found that the majority of offenders were white men under 30, and concluded it wasn’t possible to know whether any particular ethnic group was disproportionately represented.
Sir Peter Wanless, the chief executive the NSPCC, today said “there must be a focus on more than just race so we do not create new blind spots that prevent victims from being identified.” The language of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary risks making it harder to see victims that don’t fit a particular stereotype (including children from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds) and is very likely to energise violence, racism and Islamophobia.
In her Daily Mail article published on Friday, Braverman writes “Out of respect to victims, it is essential that we separate our response to the horrors of grooming gangs from wider child sexual abuse and our response to the inquiry.” We disagree. Out of respect for victims we need to ensure that we link our horror at grooming – including at those high-profile trials where perpetrators were Pakistani men – to our horror at the 84% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse who are white men. Genuine concern for the victims of all sexual abuse would give equal political attention to all perpetrators, all victims and focus on investing in abuse prevention and victim care – not dog whistle politics.
Dr Lucie Moore
On behalf of FACES