CAMPAIGNER and child sex abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse has been campaigning on several issues for nearly a decade. She waived her anonymity a year after her childhood abuser, Arshid Hussain, was jailed for 35 years in 2016.
And on Monday, her story will be told by a true-crime documentary series.
Adele Forrest caught up with her to talk about her work on various fronts – and her plans for the future.
Sammy called for a national overhaul of the family court system in December 2018 after revealing Rotherham Council had offered her abuser Hussain — jailed for sexually abusing her and eight other girls — the chance to apply for parental rights over her son, which he decided against.
She called for the law to ban any male with a child conceived through rape from applying for access or rights.
More than 460,000 people signed a petition calling for rapists to be banned from access and several MPs backed Sammy’s campaign.
Working with MP Louise Haigh she has helped to shape the Domestic Abuse Bill, and prompted the Government to launch a review into how family courts operate.
The bill would bar ex-partners of domestic abuse victims from questioning them in family court hearings and includes measures which could see abusers jailed if they breach court orders.
Sammy said: “What we are asking for is for Jess Phillips MP to raise a ten-minute bill for Nightingale Courts to be set up in light of that report.
“We want a panel of experts picked in all forms of abuse, special measures for victims, and we want trained judges to assess cases to ensure safe and proportionate outcomes.”
More than three years after asking to be pardoned for offences she committed while in the grasp of her groomer, mum-of-two Sammy is still waiting for police to act.
Under the existing law, anyone wanting their criminal record scrapped has to make an application to the chief constable. Sammy’s conviction for assault — dating back almost 20 years — has yet to be overturned.
Several MPs have backed “Sammy’s Law”, which would mean offences committed by those being exploited could be quashed easily.
The law provides for some offences to be erased but there are more than 140 exceptions, many of which are said to be commonly committed by children being exploited.
Sammy wants to see panels put in place where survivors can formally challenge their convictions, saying she wanted the “outdated” system to be brought into the 21st century.
South Yorkshire Police said in 2019 that Chief Constable Stephen Watson backed the law change but the force has still not given Sammy a decision on her case.
A spokeswoman said it was “quite a complicated matter” and that “there will be progress at some point but we can’t say when”.
Sammy, while being exploited by Hussain, said she was determined to take her fight to the high court if necessary, which could cost thousands of pounds.
“I don’t see why people like me should be punished for the rest of our lives,” she said. “I’m not a risk to anyone.”
Legal status as victims for children born out of rape
ANOTHER campaign is for children born out of rape to be given legal “victim” status so they can receive specialist help — and potentially prosecute their fathers.
Sammy, who became pregnant with her first son aged 14 after being groomed and raped, says that despite being recognised herself as a victim of sexual exploitation, there was no support for her son in dealing with how he was conceived.
She has written to Victoria Atkins, the safeguarding minister, to ask for funding for charities to be trained to offer help to mothers and children conceived by rape.
The MoJ said that, under the Victims’ Code, anyone can access support if they are affected by a crime, with a spokesperson adding: “We have also launched a review into the presumption of parental involvement in cases where children are conceived through rape.”
But Sammy said the MoJ had “batted away” her argument and their statement was “rubbish and irrelevant”. She said her son had been refused help from support services earlier this year.
“There’s no support in the country for children conceived through rape, no advice and support, nothing whatsoever,” she added.
“My son is 19 now. At age 11, I had to tell him his mum has been raped and that’s why she wanted to kill herself, his dad was the one that did it, and so did all his uncles. And it would be on TV and newspapers across the world.
“What they need is funding from government and proper training for staff and that needs to be done by people like myself. We need to have input.”
Sammy has recently been made a trustee of Mothers of Children Conceived in Rape and Abuse, a charity which supports women and girls who become pregnant from sexual violence, as well as their children.
Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)
A CALL has been made for the safeguarding minister to formally recognise child criminal exploitation in law, much as child sexual exploitation (CSE) has been in recent years.
This is part of Sammy’s work campaigning against county lines, which sees illegal drugs transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries, and usually by children who are coerced by gangs.
She also wants a ban on “plugging”, where children are forced to act as drug mules by carrying packages inside their bodies, and for it to be classed as a sex crime.
WITH talks taking place about fronting her own crime documentaries, Sammy has set her sights on becoming the next Stacey Dooley.
This Bank Holiday Monday will also her see her story told on screen – as she features in Survivors, a true crime series on the Crime+Investigation channel, fronted by actor Denise Welch, from 9pm.
Sammy also has plans for further campaigning and writing, with two more books in the pipeline.
“I have been talking about my campaigns for a few years now,” she said. “And for nearly a decade I’ve been known as a rape victim or survivor, but I’m much more than that.”
But she said she knew her campaign work would be an uphill battle —adding: “We are dealing with very stubborn people.
“They might be educated in some respect but they’re very uneducated in situations that I have been through.
“I know I have made a massive difference to the country but there could have been things done and moved a lot quicker.
“I have been doing this for nearly a decade. It’s completely taken over my life.
“It’s like I’m an MP, I just don’t get paid for it and I’m not part of a political party.”
Sammy said she had been asked to run for public office but ruled out going down that route, saying: “What I like about being a campaigner is I can juggle it around my life. I don’t want my wings to be clipped.”