RECENTLY, along with others, I met with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel.
The others included Rotherham’s MP and council leader.
The Home Secretary was anxious to know whether the victims of non-recent child sexual exploitation in Rotherham had been listened to and looked after.
I was able to tell her about a group I brought together shortly after the Jay Report came out in 2014.
This was a panel of victims, survivors and their families.
The panel told me about their experiences and helped the police to understand how they had been groomed and how the police could improve their training and response.
They also taught us that the victims of Child Sexual Exploitation were not just the girls but also family members, who were not listened to by those in authority.
It was vital for us all to hear and learn from this if victims were to come forward and successful prosecutions were to be brought.
All that was five years ago.
Since then we have come a long way.
Many victims have had the confidence and courage to come forward and there have been many trials with offenders put away for long periods of time, with more to come.
But I was also anxious that the Home Secretary realised that, given the right support, those who had been abused, though scarred, could re-build their lives.
One of the members of the panel I set up now speaks of herself no longer as a ‘victim’ or even a ‘survivor’, but as a ‘thriver’.
In other words, when she thought of herself as a ‘victim’, it was because the time of abuse still dominated her life and weighed her down.
When she called herself a ‘survivor’, it was because she was learning to get through.
But now she had taken back control of her life and was making something positive of it _ she was a ‘thriver’.
She has done very well, finishing her education and getting accepted at a university.
She wrote to me last year saying she could not have done any of this without the support of South Yorkshire Police.
Not everyone’s story will be as positive as that.
But it does show how far we have all come and how, with the right support, life can be good again.
My aim is to ensure, as far as I can, that every victim becomes not just a survivor but a thriver as well.
By Dr Alan Billings
Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire