A survivor of a gang of Rotherham men, who were behind the grooming and sexual abuse of several young girls, has recently spoken out regarding a decision labelled as both shocking and disgraceful. Miss Sammy Woodhouse, who has waived her anonymity to help others, was a victim of rape. She met the perpetrator, Mr Arshid Hussain, when she was 14 and ended up having a child as a result of the rape, when she was just 15 years old.
Miss Woodhouse was a key witness in Operation Clover, conducted by South Yorkshire Police, which was an investigation leading to a number of these men, including Arshid Hussain, being imprisoned in 2016. Mr Hussain received a sentence of 35 years. For many victims of abuse, this would be the point in which they will try to move on as best as possible, given how difficult this must be for them.
Sadly, this has been made much more of a difficult task for Miss Woodhouse, as it will have been for many other survivors of abuse around the country, by the laws we have in place and the provisions within them.
In this particular case, this is due to Rotherham Council informing Mr Hussain about care proceedings that were taking place and Miss Woodhouse was told that he could even seek visits from the son he fathered. It appears that Miss Woodhouse was not even told that the Council were approaching Mr Hussain regarding this. This also took place despite the law allowing a local authority to avoid notifying a father in care proceedings, in circumstances where he is not on the birth certificate and/or is unknown.
Something that we have previously advocated at Hudgell Solicitors, is that victims of abuse want transparency regarding what the local authorities have done, not only when they were failed by them as children, but also as adults in cases such as this. This is something which appears to have been severely lacking in this instance.
It takes incredible courage and bravery for victims of abuse to speak out about their experiences and can have a huge psychological impact in doing so. As Louise Haigh MP has commented about the Council’s actions, ‘They handed him [Mr Hussain] an invitation to re-traumatise his victim’. Not only does this result in the victims of such horrendous acts being trapped in these abusive situations whilst they are children, they are now potentially being subjected to continual psychological torment during their adulthood on the basis that their abuser, who is a proven danger, could be allowed access to see their children.
This is a nationwide issue that must be addressed and it is one of the reasons that Miss Woodhouse and Louise Haigh MP, are seeking a change to the law, particularly to the Children Act 1989, to stop rapists having access to the children born of rape.