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Media, State and ‘Political Correctness’: The Racialisation of the Rotherham Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Crime, Media and Culture book series (PSCMC)


Over the past decade in Britain, a number of sexual abuse scandals emerged. These ranged from the revelations about celebrity Jimmy Savile, thought to be the most prolific sexual abuser in British history, to the crimes of long-standing Liberal MP Cyril Smith. Both men, now deceased, were left unchecked to commit sexually violent offences against young girls and boys over a period of decades. Operation Yewtree, the on-going Metropolitan Police investigation initiated following the Jimmy Savile scandal, led to the conviction of high-profile sex abusers such as celebrity publicist Max Clifford and entertainer Rolf Harris. Around the same time as the celebrity sex abuse scandal began to make news headlines, another scandal emerged concerning the violent sexual abuse of young girls and women. This related to revelations that groups of men in towns including Rochdale in Greater Manchester and Rotherham in South Yorkshire had been sexually abusing scores of young girls over a number of years. Whilst all of these crimes received widespread news coverage, there was a marked difference in how they were framed and how they came to be understood. In the popular press representations of the Rochdale and Rotherham sexual abuse crimes, issues of violence against women and patriarchy were relegated and decentred in place of a dominant and mainstream narrative that portrayed the child sexual abuse scandal as primarily due to the uniquely dangerous masculinities of Muslim men (Tufail 2015; Gill and Harrison 2015). This chapter examines how local media and state actors and institutions in Rotherham framed the child sexual abuse scandal, the impact this had on minority communities and community relations more broadly and the ways in which these representations were challenged and resisted. This chapter also addresses the inherent tensions between feminists and anti-racists that arise in the context of sexual abuse scandals involving ethnic minority perpetrators (Grewal 2012; Ho 2006) and argues that in Rotherham there is evidence of an emergent, grassroots, anti-racist feminism.

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Tufail, W. (2018). Media, State and ‘Political Correctness’: The Racialisation of the Rotherham Child Sexual Abuse Scandal. In: Bhatia, M., Poynting, S., Tufail, W. (eds) Media, Crime and Racism. Palgrave Studies in Crime, Media and Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-71775-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-71776-0

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