One of the survivors of the Rotherham grooming scandal has asked the government to give children born from rape legal “victim” status so they can receive specialist help and potentially prosecute their fathers.
Sammy Woodhouse – who became pregnant with her first son aged 14 after being groomed and raped – says that despite being recognised herself as a victim of sexual exploitation, there was no support for her son in dealing with how he had been conceived.
She has written to Victoria Atkins, the safeguarding minister, to ask for funding for charities to be trained and offer advice and therapeutic services to mothers and children conceived by rape.
She also wants children of rape to be defined as victims within the law.
Woodhouse, who under a pseudonym was one of the first Rotherham survivors to raise the alarm on the town’s grooming scandal, said: “It’s safe to say children conceived through abuse and rape have suffered enormously, so for me it’s a given. If they are seen as victims it could help such as bringing prosecutions forward if the mother doesn’t want to testify. It will give the children a voice and be recognised as an individual with rights within the law.”
She waived her anonymity after her abuser, Arshid Hussain, was jailed for 35 years in 2016, and has become a campaigner against sexual exploitation.
In the letter to Atkins, Woodhouse wrote: “As you are aware, when I was 14 years old I was groomed, raped, sexually exploited and due to this I conceived a child … It has been extremely difficult for my son, not only has my son had to cope with the fact that his mum was raped and exploited by his ‘father’ but he was conceived from it.
“Despite being recognised as a victim of sexual exploitation in 2013, there was no advice, support in dealing with this for my son and I. In fact the opposite happened. Professionals actively encouraged my son to have a relationship with his rapist ‘father’. This has been the case for many women around the country.”
Woodhouse is being supported by Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding. “I would urge the government to fill this obvious gap in provision and work with Sammy to come up with a solution,” the Labour MP said.
Woodhouse’s MP Alexander Stafford, a Conservative, said that she was not the only survivor in Rotherham whose children were conceived via rape. “I don’t have the exact number but I’m told it’s significant, certainly not just one or two,” he said. Learning about their conception had a “huge impact” on children’s lives, he said.
Stafford is particularly concerned that rapists sometimes are allowed to visit the children conceived via their crime. “Rapists should not have access to the child,” he said, adding: “This is an issue which is not party political. Let’s make material change to legislation.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Under the victims’ code anyone can access support if they are affected by a crime.
“Supporting victims of sexual violence and abuse remains a priority for this government which is why we are investing an extra £40m in support services. We have also launched a review into the presumption of parental involvement in cases where children are conceived through rape.”