Sammy Woodhouse an abuse victim of the Rotherham grooming gang has now waived her right to anonymity and spoke to BBC Inside Out and Sky News about her experiences.
Ms Woodhouse was only 14 years old when she met Arshid Hussain, known as “Mad Ash” around Rotherham. He was one of three brothers charged last February with grooming and sexual abuse of more than 50 girls including Ms Woodhouse. Arshid and his brother Basharat were found guilty of 38 offences, which included the offences of rape, indecent assault, abduction, actual bodily harm and forcing their victims to have sex with others. Arshid, 40, was imprisoned for 35 years; Basharat, 39, and Bannaras, 36, were imprisoned for 25 and 19 years respectively.
Ms Woodhouse said that she had contact with the authorities several times throughout the time that she was experiencing the abuse, but no-one intervened. “Police said that because I was consenting to it there was nothing they could do. It was very open what was going on between us. It wasn’t this dirty little secret that nobody knew about. I was always treated as his equal by the authorities – and not as his victim.”
Ms Woodhouse suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts when it became clear to her that her relationship with Hussain was not a normal one.
“I blame him, and I also blame the professionals that failed, that helped them and that covered things up. I think now it’s time that professionals are held accountable. We’ve seen perpetrators held accountable and that’s good for us because we can move forward now; we’re getting that justice. We can’t move forward as a town until those professionals are charged and held accountable.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has started investigations into how 30 police officers handled child sex abuse complaints in Rotherham. The investigation has implicated more than 90 current and former South Yorkshire Police officers and some are potentially facing criminal charges. Rotherham Council was declared “not fit for purpose” in 2015 over its handling of child sexual exploitation and is in the process of recruiting more social workers in an attempt to use fewer agency staff.
Ms Woodhouse told Sky News that she was made to feel like a criminal rather than a victim when she came forward. “I’m asking for a royal pardon for myself and for all survivors all over the country asking for our criminal records to be wiped. I’m 31 years old and I still have a criminal record from being groomed as a child. I feel like I’m still being blamed. I think there’s a lot of survivors out there in the country that want to come forward but that are scared, they’re scared that they’re going to be prosecuted themselves.”
Ms Woodhouse stated “On my record there’s assault, possession of dangerous weapons, I was involved in burglaries, drug dealing, a lot of very serious things. A lot of that the police didn’t know about until I came forward in 2013 and told them. The things that are on my criminal record at the moment actually make me a risk to other people, makes me a danger to them and I think that’s really unfair, the fact that I’m still being blamed for my own abuse.”
Ms Woodhouse said the crimes she committed while an abuse victim could have seen her jailed for 102 years in prison. “It’s a very daunting thing and it’s something that could have prevented me from coming forward. I want other people to come forward and report their abuse and this is preventing them from doing that.”
If you have been affected by anything in this article and would like advice on how to pursue a civil damages claim, please do not hesitate to contact our highly professional Abuse team. We have successfully represented numerous victims of alleged abuse by professionals and authorities.