A whistleblower who helped expose the Rotherham scandal believes the true number of child sexual exploitation victims in the town is likely to be around 2,000 people.
Jayne Senior, the former manager of the Risky Business youth service who helped expose the scandal, said she thinks the 1,400 figure quoted in Professor Alexis Jay’s 2014 report is an underestimate.
Ms Senior, who has written a new book called ‘Broken and Betrayed’ about the Rotherham scandal, said her own examination of records suggested there were at least 1,700 victims, with hundreds more likely to not have been identified.
She said in the book: “Personally, I believe that there could be up to 2,000 victims of child sexual abuse in Rotherham.
“I think there are those that haven’t come forward and are unable to explain what happened to them, for whatever reason. Perhaps we’ll never know the true figure.
“But Alexis Jay always said that the 1,400 she quoted was a ‘conservative figure’ – sadly I can only agree.”
Ms Senior’s memoir explains how she tried to help girls from Rotherham who were being groomed, raped, trafficked and tortured by gangs of abusive, violent men – with warnings made by her and others to council officers and police falling on deaf ears for years.
The book reveals that in the early 1990s, a number of children’s home managers set up a ‘taxi drivers’ group’ in response to concerns about taxis arriving at care homes and taking away vulnerable young children.
It says: “The care home managers who set up this group had all experienced the same thing – numerous taxis driven by Asian males arriving, picking up young girls and disappearing.
“The staff felt powerless to do anything, although several attempted to follow the taxis in their own cars. Even though they reported these incidents to the police, nothing was done.
“Eventually they set up their own group to monitor the situation as it was felt the girls were somehow being abused or pimped – though at this stage no-one could prove anything.”
Ms Senior said at that time the ‘vast majority’ of girls coming to the Risky Business service were being sold for sex in Sheffield, with abuse taking place in ‘cars, B&Bs, cheap hotels and backstreets’.
She said one 15-year-old girl who had been made pregnant was beaten unconscious with a claw hammer in order to give her a termination and was left for dead.
Ms Senior said there was a ‘marked difference’ between how Sheffield police officers dealt with child exploitation cases compared to those in Rotherham, who were less willing to take action.
She said there was a shift around 2001, with abuse cases starting to take place in Rotherham itself rather than on the streets of Sheffield and with girls being groomed by older men who made them believe they were their boyfriends before horrendous abuse took place.
She said Risky Business staff eventually started to establish a pattern of sexual abuse developing in Rotherham, with perpetrators narrowed down to ‘a small group of British Asian males, all related and their many associates’.
But when evidence including names of alleged abusers, mobile phone numbers, car registration details and locations where abuse would take place were shared with senior police officers, Risky Business workers were told it was ‘hearsay’.
Ms Senior said the high level of detail shared at meetings with senior police and social services representatives was not always properly minuted and she was told that it was a ‘bit racist’ to mention the ethnicity of offenders.
The book also reveals that in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal being exposed and resulting in the eventual resignation of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, Mrs Senior was asked by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion to stand as Labour’s candidate to replace him.
She said it seemed like a ‘bizarre idea and yet an intriguing one’ and was eventually persuaded to put in an application. But Labour eventually chose former Sheffield Council deputy leader Alan Billings as its candidate.
Despite her clashes with the Labour-run council while at Risky Business, Ms Senior is now running to be elected as a Rotherham councillor representing the party.
She told The Star there has been a mixed reaction to her decision to represent the party but with a ‘lot more positive’ comments from people.
She said: “I just want to be part of the solution, I don’t want to be a problem.
“I’m open and I’m honest – I don’t know anything about politics but what I do know is about people.
“I have an opportunity to use that in a really positive way.”
She said writing the book and reliving the appalling experiences of the girls Risky Business assisted and the fight to get the crimes against them taken seriously had been an emotional experience.
“When I read the final proof, I was in a state of shock – I sat and sobbed,” she said.
She said she hopes the publication of the book will be part of attempts to allow the town to ‘move forward’ in the wake of the abuse scandal.
“It is about raising awareness. Maybe every single manager that has got power to make things different can look at what has happened and make the right decisions.”
n Broken and Betrayed by Jayne Senior is available now in paperback and as an ebook