By Meena Kumari, domestic and sexual violence lead at Victim Support
A respected researcher in child sexual abuse told me last night, as I was watching Three Girls, ‘everyone thinks Three Girls will be the catalyst for change — where was this change when real children were being raped?’
The new BBC drama, based on the Rochdale grooming case, highlights the experience of young girls who were groomed and controlled using ‘gifts’ by abusive men who took advantage of their vulnerability for their own gains.
The men were in charge of what they were doing and through tactics of bullying, threats to kill and beating showed these girls they couldn’t escape.
For those watching, the programme may have brought up a number of feelings — maybe you felt uncomfortable, angry or upset.
Unfortunately, though, ‘Three Girls’ isn’t anything new. Victim Support has supported victims of grooming, childhood sexual abuse and people raped in intimate partner relationships for years and Holly’s experience continues to happen to many people.
In fact, according to estimates by the Children’s Commissioner, 1.3 million children currently living in England will have experienced contact sexual abuse by the time they turn 18, and only one in eight of those will come to the attention of statutory agencies.
What we have to remember is services like Victim Support are out there for victims and anyone who may have had a trauma response watching this programme.
We also support adults who were exploited as young people and might just want to speak to someone. It doesn’t matter when the abuse happened or if it was reported to the police, Victim Support is here.
Three Girls got people talking last night online, in their living rooms and at work. And the fact it’s raising awareness of such an important issue is great. But we must continue to talk about child abuse and grooming, to help victims get the support they need and deserve.
The programme also highlighted the critical work of some professionals in the sector, such as Sara Rowbotham. She questioned, kept a log and challenged the practices of colleagues, and her passion and determination in ensuring these young girls were safeguarded from these monstrous acts is commendable.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in Three Girls, you can contact Victim Support for free and confidential support.