Lily Allen has once again projected herself into the media spotlight with her recent comment that “I have only ever been sexually assaulted by white males” in a Twitter spat with English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson on the subject of Asian grooming gangs.
While some people have jumped in to try to defend her, and point out that her intention was simply to highlight that sexual abuse can be carried out by men of any race, her comment displays a staggering ignorance of the issue of grooming gangs. These are gangs of men who prey on vulnerable young women, often from broken homes, plying them with attention and gifts, earning their trust and often getting them addicted to drugs, before trading them for cash and favours. Is she seriously claiming that she has been a victim of a grooming gang operated by white men? If so, why is this the first we are hearing of this? This would be a very serious allegation, if true.
More likely, her comments can be interpreted as “I don’t really know anything about sexual grooming gangs having never been a victim of one, or known anybody who has been, but I have on occasion been groped by a white man so I’ll use that experience as justification for dismissing this very serious issue as a racist fabrication”.
Clearly she didn’t hear at the time, or has forgotten, the widely reported case in June 2016 in which 15 men were convicted of child sex offences including rape, grooming and trafficking, against two separate victims in Halifax.
Or the 9 men convicted in April 2016 of various charges of grooming and serious sexual abuse against girls in Rochdale.
Or what about the more recent case in Rotherham, in October 2016, in which eight men were convicted of 19 counts including rape, sexual assault and false imprisonment against three teenage girls? Four of the men were from the same family. During the trial, it emerged that the main complainant, now aged 27, had made two complaints to police at the age of 13 but no action was taken as South Yorkshire Police lost her clothing and failed to carry out a forensic examination, despite the family writing to the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, about the abuse.
And these recent examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Andrew Norfolk, a journalist from the Times, in 2011 conducted an investigation into 17 group prosecutions between 1997 and 2010, resulting in a total of 56 convictions, which exposed a pattern of mainly white teenage girls being groomed by gangs of adult men of Muslim heritage (most of whom were British Pakistanis). In his words, “The sheer scale of what we have uncovered is quite terrifying, both in terms of the crime itself and the failure of the authorities to address it”. It was after this investigation that the media started to take the problem seriously. An interview with Andrew Norfolk about his findings, can be seen here
Peter McLaughlin, who has conducted the most comprehensive study into grooming gangs in the UK, lists 261 convictions between 2002 and the present date, involving thousands of victims. His book Easy Meat demonstrates that the true nature of this problem was known about more than 20 years ago but for many years, authorities and the media refused to acknowledge it due to fears over allegations of racism.
The title of the book refers to comments made by former Home Secretary Jack Straw in 2011, who was quoted as saying “There’s a particular problem involving Pakistani heritage men who target young, vulnerable, white English girls”. According to him, these Pakistani men view the girls as “easy meat”. He was roundly criticised by the British media for those comments, which followed the conviction of two Asian men for rape and sexual assault against girls in Derby. However, a subsequent low-key government investigation into the issue of grooming gangs identified up to 1400 victims in Rotherham alone. Police chiefs are now apparently saying that the number of schoolgirl victims in the UK is more than 10,000 each year. Take a moment to let that figure sink in.
Notably, the book tackles head-on the fact that the majority of the perpetrators of these gangs are of Islamist faith. The Koran encourages Muslims to take enemy women as sex slaves, and the prophet Mohammed was said to have had sex with a 9 year-old wife. During the case which led to the more recent conviction in Rotherham, the ringleader openly boasted “All white girls are good for is sex and they are just sl*gs”. Under the growing phenomenon of global jihad, the targeting of young white women by fundamentalist Islamist men is likely to continue on an increasing scale as long as we refuse to acknowledge it for fears of being considered racist.
Finally, what has not been mentioned in any of the reporting of this Twitter spat, is that Tommy Robinson’s cousin was a victim of a grooming gang in Luton at age 13. In an interview with the Huffington Post he is quoted as saying:
“This was going on when I was 12 years old. So I’m listening to all the family. Hearing them crying. The girl’s gone missing. She’s 14 years old. The police say she’s a drug addict. She’s a drug addict cause they got her on drugs mate. She’d climb out the window to get back to them for the drugs. Then she’s waking up naked. Raped by them.”
I would suggest, on this particular issue, Robinson has more first-hand knowledge of the problem than does Lily Allen. And while I support her efforts to stamp out racist abuse wherever she sees it, on this particular issue she would do well to educate herself on the particular nature of the problem before embarking on any further discussions.