More than 70,000 people have signed a petition calling for the sexual health worker who advocated for the victims of grooming in Rochdale to be recognised for her work.
The petition asks for acknowledgment of the work of Sara Rowbotham, the sexual health worker played by Maxine Peake in the BBC drama Three Girls, which depicted the abuse of girls in Rochdale and their struggle to be taken seriously by authorities, which aired last week.
Rowbotham was the coordinator of Rochdale’s crisis intervention team from 2003 to 2014 and worked with many of the girls who were victims of the Rochdale grooming scandal. She repeatedly raised concerns about vulnerable girls in the community to police and other authorities, which were dismissed.
She worked for a specialist sexual health service in the city and wrote in the Guardian earlier this month that if that service had not been available “half the evidence that led to mass convictions would never have come to light”. She added: “The girls didn’t trust police or social services to help them and I quickly found out why they felt this way, as no one wanted to listen to them.”
The petition, calling for recognition of Rowbotham, notes how she was made redundant from her post in 2014, two years after the attackers were convicted.
“Sara was not only removed from her role as a sexual health worker with young children, she was later made redundant from her post,” says the petition.
“The very lady who believed these children, supported these children, never once dismissing these children or gave up on these children was tossed aside!”
The petition calls for Rowbotham to be recognised by Greater Manchester police and the Crown Prosecution Service as well as by “the government and crown for her services for young people”.
Last year, nine men were sentenced to up to 25 years in prison each for a number of serious sexual offences against victims as young as 13, including rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. A 10th man pleaded guilty and was sentenced in September 2015.
The earliest reported offences took place in 2005, and while some of the offences were reported by victims shortly after they took place, these were not pursued at the time, either because victims decided not to continue to assist with police inquiries or because police decided not to continue investigating the allegations.
In 2015, Greater Manchester police apologised for their failure to conduct a more thorough investigation of the allegations and for some of their dealings with victims between 2008 and 2010. However, no officers involved faced any misconduct hearings.