The front page of today's New York Times offers a sensitively written account of the ordeals suffered by child sex-abuse victims in Rotherham, England, where an investigation has revealed that, between 1997 and 2013, "at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way."
Why did authorities ignore the abuse? The article takes its time arriving at the answer, and when it does, the answer it offers is incomplete.
We are first given an account from Lucy, a victim now 25, who tells of how she was targeted by a gang whose members raped her daily from when she was 12 until she was nearly 14:
At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.
But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.
“All of them?” she remembers asking. A check was mailed, 140 pounds, or $232, for loss of property, and the family was discouraged from pressing charges. It was the girl’s word against that of the men. The case was closed.
The story then shifts to the recently released investigation of Rotherham child sex abuse, which revealed the extent to which local authorities failed to prosecute cases such as Lucy's:
Between 1997 and 2013, despite numerous reports of sexual abuse, only one case, involving three teenage girls, was prosecuted, and five men were sent to jail, according to an official report into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham published last week.
Finally, in the twelfth paragraph, we are given a reason for the lack of prosecution:
The victims identified in the report were all white, while the perpetrators were mostly of Pakistani heritage. ... Some officers and local officials told the investigation that they did not act for fear of being accused of racism.
To anyone who has been following the Rotherham story in other media outlets, especially the British press, what is striking about the Times story is not what it says, but rather what it doesn't say. Nowhere does it mention what for many other mainstream news reports is the key issue: the investigation traced the local government officials' inaction primarily to fears of offending the Muslim community, as the Religion News Service's Trevor Grundy notes:
In the report, Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997-2013), lead author Alexis Jay writes that police and government officials turned a blind eye to the horrifying reports reaching them from abused children -- almost all of them teenage girls -- because of fear that, if widely known, they would stir up anti-Muslim feelings in Britain.
The religion angle is completely absent from the Times article. In other words, we have here a classic religion ghost.
Look at the following block of material from the Times report, which contains the reference to the "racism" allegation noted above. Note the care that the world's most powerful newspaper took in avoiding the religious issue that looms over this crisis and which, I stress, was mentioned in the independent report:
It has highlighted another uncomfortable dimension of the issue, that of race relations in Britain. The victims identified in the report were all white, while the perpetrators were mostly of Pakistani heritage, many of them working in nighttime industries like taxi driving and takeout restaurants. The same was true in recent prosecutions in Oxford, in southern England, and the northern towns of Oldham and Rochdale, where nine men of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan origin were given long prison sentences in 2012 for abusing up to 47 girls. Investigators in Scotland have reportedly uncovered a similar pattern of abuse.
Sexual abuse of children takes many forms, and the majority of convicted abusers in Britain are white. But as Nazir Afzal, the chief crown prosecutor in charge of sexual violence and himself of Pakistani heritage, put it, “There is no getting away from the fact that there are Pakistani gangs grooming vulnerable girls.”
As a Catholic, I find myself wondering: If the perpetrators of a massive number of child sex-abuse crimes were Catholics, and the victims mostly non-Catholic, and if an investigation showed that officials failed to take action for fear of stirring up anti-Catholic feelings, would the Times consider that religion angle worthy of mention?
And I have one more question, this one as a victim of child sex abuse: In ignoring the investigation's finding that fear of offending Muslims -- again, not a simple fear of "racism" -- motivated officials to keep quiet about the abuse, is the Times itself following the same rules of political correctness that enabled the Rotherham abuse to continue unchecked?
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