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Operation Bullfinch: Guilty verdicts in Oxfordshire CSE case

14 May 2013

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) welcomes today's news that seven dangerous child sex offenders have been successfully prosecuted in Oxford as a result of Operation Bullfinch.

The details of this case are disturbing and extreme. It is nonetheless important we acknowledge that it is not the only case of its kind. The Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) reported that last year over 2,000 children were subjected to sexual exploitation and at least 16,500 identified as being at risk, and at the same time they indicated that the true figures are likely to be much higher. Government statistics released in January 2013 estimate that 85,000 women are raped and over 400,000 sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year. The scale of sexual violence is undeniably huge.

This case, as others before it, reminds us that too many agencies continue to fail sexual violence survivors repeatedly. It reinforces the message from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer in March this year that damaging myths around sexual violence, such as the misguided perception that so-called false allegations are common, still too often lead to victims / survivors, including vulnerable young girls like the complainants in this case, being disbelieved or dismissed when they seek the justice and support they want and deserve. The criminal justice system and other agencies must now dramatically improve their responses.

RCEW represents a network of independent Rape Crisis Centres with 40 years’ experience of providing specialist, front-line services to women and girls whose lives have been affected by sexual violence of any kind at any time. Over 60% of the 60,000 women and girls we support each year come to us because of events that happened three years or more ago and nearly half are adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Only 15% of the women and girls we work with report to the police. Regardless of whether a survivor chooses to pursue criminal justice, RCEW believes that every woman or girl who has experienced sexual violence deserves social justice in the form of the non-judgemental, confidential and independent support of Rape Crisis services delivered within a woman-only safe space. We hope that the Government will remain committed to sustaining our specialist Centres, and to supporting us to develop new Rape Crisis services in areas that currently have little or no provision, well into the future. 

Natalie Brook of member Oxford Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC) responded to today's verdicts by saying:  

"The case serves as a reminder that the sexual abuse of children and young people – particularly girls and young women - is endemic in today’s society. Our work supporting women and girls who have experienced sexual violence in Oxfordshire also tells us this is a long term, deep rooted problem. Sadly, specialist services to support those who have experienced sexual exploitation and abuse are rare and underfunded. More resources are urgently required to ensure appropriate services – like Rape Crisis Centres – can deliver the support needed to those who have experienced sexual violence."

RCEW also believes that cases such as this highlight the ongoing need for our movement's important awareness-raising work. We hope that these young women's experiences will encourage schools and other partners to collaborate closely with our member Rape Crisis Centres in their local areas to develop and deliver more vital preventative work with children and young people focussed on issues including grooming, consent and healthy relationships.

We encourage any woman or girl whose life has been affected by sexual violence of any kind at any time to contact her nearest Rape Crisis services.