Tens of thousands of children are the victims of sex crimes every year, according to a leading police officer who warned there might be “many more Rotherhams to come”.
Simon Bailey, chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary, told The Guardian that child sex abuse had been “too long been a hidden crime”.
He said that some of the media’s concentration on the ethnicity of the mainly Asian gangs behind the sexual exploitation of 1,400 girls in Rotherham was a mistake.
“There has been an unhealthy focus on that particular model of abuse and we cannot afford to take our eye off the fact that it is but one model and we have to look at the bigger picture,” he said.
Mr Bailey, who leads on child abuse for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that the idea of paedophile gangs was “overshadowing a far, far, bigger picture, and that bigger picture is that 90 per cent of child sexual abuse takes place in the home where crimes are being perpetuated upon victims by people they know already”.
He said police did not “know for sure” how many children were being abused, but said he thought it ran into “tens of thousands of victims of an appalling crime” every year.
And he said the authorities “might find many more Rotherhams to come” amid the increased scrutiny of sex crimes against children.
A report by Professor Alexis Jay into child sex abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 found that gangs of mainly Asian men had groomed, abused and trafficked vulnerable children. It said that police had been contemptuous of the victims, while the council ignored what was happening despite several warnings.
Cases included the rape of children as young as 11 by a number of different men. They were also abducted, beaten and trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England for further abuse.
Professor Jay said in August that she had documented case in which children were “doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.