Some of you may already be aware that the BBC recently aired a documentary called ‘Three Girls’, based on the Roshdale Sex Ring. The documentary follows the story of 3 girls, Holly, Ruby and Amber, who find themselves being sold for sex, by older men, following a period of grooming.
The documentary is not an easy watch at all, but is incredibly eye opening into how girls find themselves in a position of being sexually exploited within their own city. It also gives a clear account of how the girls get justice after many years of being failed by the police and social services.
The girls are left completely broken by their experiences, with all three of them falling pregnant by their traffickers, yet amazingly still stand up in court to testify against their abusers.
Another vitally important person in helping the girls get justice is Sara Rowbotham, a sexual health worker, the first person to identify the abuse. As soon as Sara became aware of the abuse back in 2004 she made it her mission to gather as much information as possible before presenting it to social services and the police. Sara made 181 referrals for the young people between 2005-2011, however, when she did the social services simply dismissed the girl’s cases and instead of identifying the girls as victims of abuse, identified them as prostitutes. Sara was not in a position to do anything directly herself and was left failed by the people who could. But Sara did not give up there. She persevered. She knew the girls were still being exploited. She knew the girls were still begin sold for sex. So, she continued to gather evidence.
It wasn’t until 2012 when the girl’s cases were reconsidered, and Sara’s evidence was eventually used, acting as the main source of information. Eventually, following a hard battle in court 47 girls were identified as being trafficked, with 12 traffickers convicted. This is an amazing story of perseverance. Sara could have given up. She could have lost all hope for these girls. But she did not. She kept going. She knew the girls were far too important for her to give up.
I just want to encourage you in this – you may feel that your fight against human trafficking is too small, that you are not doing enough, that you are not making a difference to these girls lives. Let me encourage you to persevere. Freedom is possible. Justice is possible. And YOU are helping to make this happen!