Woman who exposed child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham tells her story at special event at Newnham

Jayne Senior

The woman who exposed the child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham was one of the guest speakers at a special event at Newnham College organised in partnership with Women of the Year.

Jayne Senior, who was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to child protection, revealed a shocking pattern of exploitation that saw large numbers of children and young people groomed, gang raped and tortured by groups of men.

Senior, pictured, was one of four inspiring speakers at the event talking on the topic Queen Bee or Role Model: Do Successful Women Have A Responsibility to Support Other Women?

Speaking to a conference room full of Newnham students, guests from Women of the Year, Newnham Associates and Honorary Associates, she said: “If it isn’t good enough for my children, then it isn’t good enough.”

Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, chaired the event where four women discussed their personal, and very different, experiences in helping other women. The attendees then gathered into smaller groups for discussions and to explore how they could help other women in future.

Senior discussed how she ran Risky Business, an outreach programme for vulnerable youngsters in Rotherham and between 1999 and 2011 she reported almost 1,700 cases of grooming or sexual exploitation to the local children’s services.

Frustrated by the fact the council rarely took any action, she bravely made contact with a journalist from The Times and handed over 200 confidential documents which contained evidence that Rotherham’s police and social services had been aware of the sexual abuse happening but had done nothing to prevent it.

She was awarded Women of the Year Outstanding Achievement Award in 2015 for her courage in blowing the whistle on the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal and helping the victims get the justice they deserved.

Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, spoke movingly about her sister who committed suicide by setting herself on fire when she was told she could not leave her husband because it would bring shame on her family.

Sanghera, who was born and brought up in Derby and is a survivor of forced marriage, founded Karma Nirvana, a national award-winning charity that supports men and women affected by honour based abuse.

The author of Shame is also credited with being pivotal to the creation of a specific UK forced marriage criminal offence in 2014. She has received numerous awards including the prestigious Women of the Year Award in 2007 and in 2011 she was listed in the Guardian top 100 Most Inspirational Women in the World.

Jane Luca, Chair of Women of the Year, said “It was a real pleasure to be back at Newnham and be part of a wonderful afternoon full of stories of courage, determination and inspiration. I’m so delighted that Women of the Year were able to bring two of our wonderful winners in Jayne and Jasvinder to Newnham and look forward to more collaborations together.”

Newnham Associate Clare McGregor (NC 1991), founder of Coaching Inside and Out (CIAO), talked about her inspirational work helping people in prison to change their lives. More than 30 coaches have now helped over 500 men, women and children improve their motivation, self-worth and resourcefulness.

McGregor wrote about her work in Coaching Behind Bars which was described as a ‘remarkable book’ by The Times.

Sue Owen (NC 1973), President of the Associates, is Permanent Secretary of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which also has responsibility for equalities. She talked about her career and initiatives for women which help them to make the progression they deserve in the workplace.

Women of the Year has recognised, celebrated and inspired women of all backgrounds for 60 years and continues to shine a light on extraordinary women through an annual lunch, lecture and on-going foundation work. This was the second event held in partnership with Newnham.

Rebecca Kershaw (NC 2008), one of the Newnham students who attended the event, said: “The speakers shared incredibly personal and truly inspiring stories of their bravery and perseverance. The discussion afterwards provided a unique setting to openly share ideas and experiences across generations about what is (and is definitely not) the best way to support and get the most of other women.”