A SUPPORT centre in Rotherham for child sexual exploitation victims reported a spike in referrals following the airing of the BBC TV drama Three Girls.
Swinton Lock Activity Centre had a dozen new victims get in contact after the eye-opening show.
Three Girls, a three-parter which aired last week, told the true story of victims from the 2012 Rochdale grooming scandal involving gangs of Asian men.
Swinton Lock chief executive Jayne Senior said: “We saw an immediate increase in referrals and the programme also had an effect on those we were already supporting.
“We also had calls from people in the community, perhaps with a clearer understanding of what we do at Swinton Lock, asking how they could support us.”
Three Girls has won acclaim for its hard-hitting take on the Rochdale case, which had parallels with Rotherham and other areas.
Jayne, who ran youth service Risky Business throughout the 2000s, said: “This show affected me personally and professionally. I couldn’t watch it in full, I had to watch it in pieces.
“For years and years I listened to the abuse and wrote bit down and sat in meetings and spoke about it all. Last week, I watched it.
“Now it’s etched into my brain and I’ll never forget it.
“It was harrowing. I think there’s been a ricochet effect that’s hit us all.”
Mel Meggs, Rotherham Borough Council’s deputy director of children’s services, said: “While we have not seen an immediate increase in numbers of people reporting concerns around child sexual exploitation following last week’s Three Girls programme, this could happen over the next few weeks.
“It may be that people take some time to reflect and decide which agency to contact following an awareness raising programme like this, as this is the pattern we have seen before.”
Survivor and campaigner Sammy Woodhouse, formerly known as Jessica, said: “It’s been so emotional watching Three Girls because it’s so much like Rotherham.
“The girls are amazing for allowing their lives to be judged by the nation to raise awareness.
“I’ve nothing but respect for them.
“Because of them, five million people are now more aware of grooming and abuse.”
Another Rotherham survivor, whose abusers were jailed earlier this year, said: “They have done it well, it’s shocking and harrowing without going too far where people can’t even tune in,” she said.
“It’s so similar in terms of how they were groomed and the tactics used.”
She added: “It really upset my mum because it does portray reality, but I think it makes them (her parents) more determined because people deserve answers and justice.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “As Three Girls highlights, groomers can trick a child into believing they have chosen to be in this situation.
“We are imploring any adult who suspects a child is being exploited to pick up the phone.”
Det Chief Insp Martin Tate, who led South Yorkshire Police’s Operation Clover, said he had found the show “extremely difficult viewing” but insisted:
“Victims will be heard and cops do care.”
You can catch up with Three Girls on BBC iPlayer.
Anyone with concerns for a child can contact Rotherham’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub on 01709 336080. Young people can ring 0800 1111 or visit childline.org.uk.