In her oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, the deputy children's commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, said: "... What I am uncovering is that the sexual exploitation of children is happening all over the country. As one police officer who was a lead in a very big investigation in a very lovely, leafy, rural part of the country said to me, there is not a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited."
It was therefore a welcome opportunity when parliamentarians were able to debate the very sensitive subject of 'Child Sexual Exploitation.' An opportunity to debate protecting children from becoming victims of the most abhorrent abuse.
I was dismayed when the focus of the debate was deflected away from this and entangled instead with issues of race and religion. Tory MP Kris Hopkins insisted that "Time and time again it's a white girl being raped by Muslim men".
It seems that Mr. Hopkins had completely disregarded evidence presented to the Home Affairs Select committee in which the deputy children's commissioner when questioned on this point had stated this was not an issue of race or religion, this was an issue of methodology and was simply 'one' type of sexual abuse taking place. A point made also by the assistant chief commissioner of Greater Manchester police and the judge presiding over the recent exploitation case in Derby.
Separately, and in a wider context it is equally important to emphasise methods to define this debate. There are many methods which Mr. Kris Hopkins and others neglect to mention when taking their misguided arguments on race and religion: the trafficking of vulnerable young girls who are forced in to prostitution by criminal gangs, more recently we see with Jimmy Savile and others who have used their position and power to satisfy their grotesque and perverse needs. We learned of the abuse taking place in care homes such as North Wales, or cases of affluent men travelling to the Far East to satisfy their perverse desires, then there are methods deployed by Internet groomers, or the cases of abuse carried out by Catholic priests.
The common factors and themes which run through cases of child sexual exploitation are not race or religion but that the perpetrators are male and prey upon vulnerable young victims.
Arguments which point to Asian perpetrators seeing young white females as 'easy meat' do not take note that sadly such females are rarely from a happy, secure family life and are usually from the most vulnerable group in our society. A sexual predator does not consider the race and religion of their victims, those who are preyed upon are targeted because of their vulnerability.
The brutal exploitation of vulnerable young victims raises important and worrying questions which must be openly and honestly debated. We should be asking ourselves how these victims came to be in such exposed positions and why their families and local agencies were
unable to protect them.
The number of young girls in our society who lack a family structure which can protect them is increasing. Statistics show that a third of the victims are in care, while others are from poor backgrounds and lack self esteem or the empowerment to change their lives. Sadly it is these factors which make them more vulnerable on the radar of an exploitative sexual monster. Whether these young victims are white or of another ethnicity does not make them more or less vulnerable.
Kris Hopkins and the others in favour of his argument risk pandering to the whims of the BNP and other far right groups. This is not an ethnic or cultural crime. Child exploitation, grooming or child abuse of any other kind is not uniquely or predominantly carried out by one ethnic or religious group. Nine out of ten of those on the sex offenders register are white British.
Yesterday's debate should not have been about the ethnicity and religion of the abuser, nor should it be an opportunity to tarnish an entire community.
This is a debate about the vulnerability of victims, let's not forget about them.