Identifying “risk from child sexual exploitation” is only the first task of the police, health and justice systems…

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“As part of this review, we have identified a group of 22 young people who may be at risk from child sexual exploitation and are seeking to identify those who may have committed crimes against them.”

Identifying victims is not the same as prosecution, and it certainly does not mean that for the victims themselves their ordeal is over. This File On 4 programme broadcast earlier this year gave a harrowing account of some of those experiences from the Rochdale case.

…one of the police officers involved in the case claims that flaws in the way it was handled meant important witness evidence was dropped and some abusers were never prosecuted – leaving a new generation of girls potentially at risk and victims seriously let down.

Jane Deith also hears complaints that witnesses were left without adequate support to help them re-build their lives.

It is well worth listening to at this point, not least because such headlines can give the impression that the problem is all but over. For some, it may only be the beginning of a more challenging stage.

It is also proof, if such were required that for Northern Ireland, and most other places child sex abuse is an ongoing problem and not just an historic one. The seriousness with which those historic cases are handled, no doubt will have an effect on current victims.

But there needs to be a seriousness about the way contemporary cases are handled too. The much tougher cultural problem is often the way the abusers are so deeply hard wired into communities who are already distrustful of the state’s agencies.

And that can only multiply the already profound vulnerability of the victims concerned.

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