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Rotherham Is Everywhere

Former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky (left), via theseoduke/Flickr

The New York Times had a piece this past week that added savage detail to the Rotherham story. Excerpt:

When parents reported their daughters missing, it could take 24 hours for the police to turn up, Ms. Jay said. Some parents, if they called in repeatedly, were fined for wasting police time.

Some officers and local officials told the investigation that they did not act for fear of being accused of racism. But Ms. Jay said that for years there was an undeniable culture of institutional sexism. Her investigation heard that police referred to victims as “tarts” and to the girls’ abuse as a “lifestyle choice.”

In the minutes of a meeting about a girl who had been raped by five men, a police detective refused to put her into the sexual abuse category, saying he knew she had been “100 percent consensual.” She was 12.

“These girls were often treated with utter contempt,” Ms. Jay said.

Lucy, now 25 but too scared to give her last name because, she said, the men who brutalized her still live nearby, knows about contempt. During an interview at her home outside Rotherham, she recalled being questioned about her abuse by police officers who repeatedly referred to the main rapist as her “boyfriend.”

The first time she was raped, there were nine men, she said, one on top of her, another to pin her down and force himself into her mouth. Two others restrained a friend of hers, holding open her eyelids to make her watch. The rest of the men, all in their 20s, stood over her, cheering and jeering, and blinding her with the flash of their cameras.

When she went to bed that night, she found a text message from the man who had groomed her for months: “Did you get home all right?”

She hesitated, then texted back: “Yes, I’m fine.”

At that moment, she said, rape became normality. “I thought, ‘This must be my fault, I must have given them a signal,’ ” she said.

If I had been a police officer who had failed those girls in this way, it would take all I had within me not to want to kill myself. But these dirtbags in Rotherham can’t even be bothered to resign in disgrace. It is clear that political correctness regarding racism had a lot to do with this horror. But it is also clear that sexism did as well, and class bias. The police — not exactly the rich, note well — thought these working class girls were sluts.

Ross Douthat has an excellent column today about Rotherham, drawing parallels between it and other sex abuse scandals

So instead of looking for ideological vindication in these stories, it’s better to draw a general lesson. Show me what a culture values, prizes, puts on a pedestal, and I’ll tell you who is likely to get away with rape.

In Catholic Boston or Catholic Ireland, that meant men robed in the vestments of the church.

In Joe Paterno’s pigskin-mad Happy Valley, it meant a beloved football coach.

In Hollywood and the wider culture industry — still the great undiscovered country of sexual exploitation, I suspect — it has often meant the famous and talented, from Roman Polanski to the BBC’s Jimmy Savile, robed in the authority of their celebrity and art.

And in Rotherham, it meant men whose ethnic and religious background made them seem politically untouchable, and whose victims belonged to a class that both liberal and conservative elements in British society regard with condescension or contempt.

The point is that as a society changes, as what’s held sacred and who’s empowered shifts, so do the paths through which evil enters in, the prejudices and blind spots it exploits.

Read the whole thing. It’s the smartest take on this entire thing I’ve seen anywhere.

Naturally two or three idiots who junk up the NYT’s comment threads are saying that this is all a Douthat attempt to either a) distract attention from the real enemy, the Catholic Church, or b) an attempt to distract attention from the real enemy, which is conservatism. Which just goes to prove Douthat’s point.

As I’ve written here before, when I was writing about the Catholic scandal, you had outraged Catholic partisans on both sides who saw the abuse as vindication for their view of What Is Wrong With The Church. For conservatives, it was entirely about the lavender mafia and sexually permissive theological liberalism. They were partly right. For liberals, it was about celibacy, authoritarianism, and sexually repressive theological conservatism. They were partly right. What few people wanted to face was that their own side failed. Even after five years of writing about this stuff, when I didn’t think I could get any more jaded and mistrustful, I fell for the lies of a manipulative priest who played off of my frustration with liberalism in the Church — until he slipped up. And I can tell you from personal experience that there was and is in the media a fear of writing everything reporters know about the church culture that produced sexual abusers because of a fear of stoking anti-gay prejudice.

Nobody — not me, not you, nobody — is free of the desire to protect those we consider our own, and to protect ourselves from having to face painful truths. A very conservative, morally upright lay Catholic acquaintance of mine observed all kinds of sexual misconduct inside the seminary where he was teaching, and told his dear friend the bishop personally about what was going on. Later, when it all blew up, I asked my acquaintance why the bishop had not acted when he was informed. He had no answer — but he also could not believe that his dear friend the bishop had done wrong. It was an extraordinary moment, watching this man struggle with cognitive dissonance. I remember it like it happened yesterday. The confusion and panic in his eyes. It is hard to imagine how a girl who had been gang-raped could think it was her fault, but if we are conditioned to believe that the world is constituted in a certain way, we will not accept, or not easily accept, anything that contradicts it. We will believe absurd things before we will accept a truth we don’t want to face.

If you don’t think it can happen to you, you are lying to yourself. “It’s difficult for them to see whose paycheck depends on not seeing,” said Upton Sinclair. It is also difficult for them to see whose sense of well being depends on not seeing. And at some point, that is all of us.


It’s happening again. It is happening in front of our eyes. The denial. The deflection. The deceit.

All of the toxic impulses that contrived to allow the systematic abuse of thousands of children in Rotherham are again being redeployed in the face of the damning, incontrovertible evidence of the nature and scale of that abuse. Hear that sound? That low rumble? It is the sound of liberal wagons again being circled.

I genuinely thought the Jay report marked the end. The moment when those of us on the Left who had tried to turn away from the reality of the racial component of the crimes perpetrated in Rotherham would finally hold up our hands and acknowledge the truth. But I forgot. The progressive Left can never be wrong.

So the arguments are being marshaled. The lines-to-take issued.

The first is that the Rotherham scandal is a great political construct of the Right and their friends in the “Right-wing media”. “The authorities’ failure to act, it is suggested, was conditioned by nervousness about being branded racist,” writes Paul Vallely in the Guardian. “Some sections of the media have gleefully portrayed this as a failure of liberal notions that social harmony in Britain is best served by celebrating every culture.” “The right can make it only about race,” says Suzanne Moore.

It’s not the Right who have made it about race. It’s the abusers of Rochdale who taunted their victims as “white trash”, the social workers who failed to act effectively because of the race of the perpetrators, the politicians who told them not to act because of race of the perpetrators, and the police who failed to do their duty because of the race of the perpetrators, who made it about race. The only thing the press have “gleefully portrayed” is the findings of half a dozen independent reports, a number of which had been deliberately suppressed, which set out all these facts in irrefutable detail. It is not “suggested” that the authorities failed to act because of racial sensitivities. It has been proven beyond a shred of reasonable doubt they failed to act because of racial sensitivities.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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