The Oxford sex abuse gang have been sentenced; the suffering of their victims is ongoing


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The Independent Online

The little girls – for that is what they were – abused by this gang are the victims of some horrific crimes. Today, hopefully, they each take a large step towards ending their ordeals for good.

Many were in the care of the local authorities when they were abused. For a long time, those with the power to put a stop to their abuse did not believe them. Today, they have been vindicated.

Few who sat through the months of evidence presented by the victims of these barbaric crimes will ever forget it. The face of a scared little girl, contorted by her silent screams at the pain of regurgitating the memories is not easily erased.

There was general agreement on the press benches that less than a quarter of the detail of what was done to the six victims could ever be printed in a responsible newspaper. Police officers spoke of devoting years of their lives to bringing this gang to justice.

All of those who were in court hold their own loved-ones a little tighter today.

In many cases, the victims were too young to understand the things that were done to them and what they meant. But their abusers were not. Some of the girls described feeling loved. This is what their abusers made them believe rape was.

The men in this case were Asians and North Africans and there were two sets of brothers. Their victims were white girls. But the common theme among the girls was vulnerability; among the men, a desire to exploit vulnerability for their own gain.

The moral bankruptcy and inhumanity of the men extends further than most will see or care to look. First, there was the abuse. That was followed by the years of hurt, misplaced shame and then the public outrage at the failures of the authorities and a high profile trial. Soon enough, a Serious Case Review Panel will report on those failings and the world will look again at these girls’ sad stories.

But, long after the abuse has been stopped and the rest of the world has moved on, the ordeals of the victims will still be going on. They may not have been killed by their abusers but what they are left with is arguably as bad. One girl told the Old Bailey that giving evidence terrified her. She said that nothing could really be done to stop her abusers eventually getting at her, even from behind bars.

For all of them, the mental anguish and consequences of being sexualised so early in their formative years is something they will have to learn to deal with. Some may have to relearn what love is. It shames society that they must do so. It is important that all of the victims of these despicable crimes are belatedly given the protection they deserve. And they deserve to finally be allowed to rebuild their lives in spite of these monsters.

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