Child victims of sexual abuse tell of harrowing exploitation by criminal gangs

Harrowing evidence of child sexual exploitation by organised gangs offered only a glimpse of the ordeals suffered by young victims.

Over the course of two months in 2020, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard evidence from more than 30 witnesses which revealed how police and local authorities failed to properly tackle the problem.

In one of the most shocking examples, the inquiry heard of a girl known only as CS-A372 who, aged 14, was abducted by a gang and forced to perform a sex act on 23 men while a gun was held to her head.

The youngster, who was raped repeatedly from the age of 12 and had a history of self-harm, was later placed into care. She said she was previously threatened with prostitution by her father, and informed social services.

However, her case was closed.

The girl would frequently go missing, only to be picked up by the police, to whom she would report the sexual abuse, the inquiry heard.

But she said she did not consider that meaningful steps were taken to protect her.

Another witness, known as CS-A373, said her complaints that she had been plied with drugs, forced to perform a sex act and then raped as a 12-year-old by a gang fell on deaf ears.

She was raped again after being placed into care, she said, but her attacker was only handed a caution for having sex with a child under 16.

The girl said she felt the police “took little action to investigate the abuse” and failed to assess the risk her perpetrators posed in the community.

She said police repeatedly took her home each time she ran away, but did not ask her why she was trying to escape.

The inquiry also heard the case of CS-A1, whose mother raised “real concerns” with social services (in Warwickshire) that the girl was being sexually exploited by men, but that this was not taken seriously until nine months later.

The girl’s experience of having eight different social workers in four years, and 14 foster placements, highlighted “instability and chaos” in her life, the inquiry was told.

In one instance, CS-A1 was placed in the same area she had been exploited, and consequently went missing 48 times in 84 days.

Her mother told the inquiry: “(She) has been robbed of part of her childhood.”

The report, Child Sexual Exploitation By Organised Networks Investigation Report is available here.

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