Sarah Champion has been a relentless advocate for victims of child sexual abuse since entering parliament six years ago. But the Labour MP for Rotherham is concerned the issue is ‘dropping off’ the government’s radar. She talks to Elizabeth Bates
When Sarah Champion was first elected as the MP for Rotherham in 2012 she was plunged into the middle of an unfolding child abuse scandal. An exposé by The Times had, two years earlier, revealed widespread grooming and sexual exploitation of young women and girls in the northern town, compounded by wilful ignorance and neglect among those in authority.
Champion’s task was formidable with victims starting to pour forward and local services in crisis.
Since that time there has been a fundamental shift in awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) within the police, social services and the wider public and she has been instrumental in driving the change.
Sitting in her Westminster office, she talks predominately about that period through the prism of her interactions with victims.
“I am most proud of listening to the women that came to me at the beginning around the CSE that they had experienced when they were children, because no one else had,” she says. “I am proud of how helping them has enabled them to move forward with their lives. It’s more an honour than a pride thing.”
She has been a relentless advocate for those women in Westminster, securing a change to the law to make it easier for the police to intervene in grooming cases and more recently working cross-party to improve relationship education in schools.
However, after six years fighting CSE from the Opposition benches, the Labour MP is concerned that for the current Prime Minister the issue has “dropped off the radar”.
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