Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The silence surrounding grooming gangs

Who is allowed to be part of the #MeToo movement? I ask because on Friday five men were found guilty of horrific sexual crimes against eight girls and yet the case hasn’t trended on Twitter. There have been no hashtags. The girls’ suffering hasn’t been widely talked about. There have been very few declarations of solidarity from feminists. There’s pretty much been silence.

It isn’t hard to see why. The problem for the mostly middle-class, well-connected feminists who make up the #MeToo movement is that this case involved both the wrong kind of victim and the wrong kind of perpetrator.

The victims were working-class girls, under the age of 16, some of them quite troubled — a far cry from the actresses, businesswomen and lobby journalists whose experiences of harassment have dominated the #MeToo narrative so far.

And the perpetrators were Muslim men. They were Muslim men who the judge described as ‘cunning and determined’ sexual predators. And surely no one wants to risk stirring up Islamophobic sentiment by drawing attention to a Muslim gang engaged in incredibly abusive behaviour?

So let’s brush it aside. Let’s hope it fades away. We can’t have inconvenient working-class victims of a Muslim grooming gang disturbing the #MeToo narrative or the multicultural script.

This is the story of the latest convictions secured in Operation Stovewood, the huge investigation into the sexual exploitation and abuse of girls and young women in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

The five men found guilty on Friday had committed various horrendous crimes: rape, indecent assault, and child abduction. They had plied the girls with drink and drugs and used them as ‘sexual objects’, in the words of Judge Michael Slater who oversaw the case at Sheffield Crown Court. The girls had been horribly dehumanised.

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