A woman has revealed her battle for justice following being repeatedly raped as a 12-year-old after being picked up by two men from a police station where she had gone to report a sex attack.
Her ordeal is part of an upcoming review into child sexual exploitation in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
Sophie (not her real name) told Sky News that the assault in 2006 left her severely traumatised and she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sky News has seen a provisional copy of one section of the review and it reveals how Sophie was failed by the police and social services.
Detailing the horrific attack, Sophie told Sky News that she had been drinking with her friends in a local churchyard when a man had sexually assaulted her.
‘They just told me to go home’
She bravely went to Oldham Police Station to report the attack but said she was dismissed by the desk clerk.
“They just told me to go home. There were two men at the door that offered to take me,” says Sophie.
She says the desk clerk let her leave with the men.
Naively Sophie went with them, but instead of taking her home they sexually assaulted her in a car.
They then refused to take her home and instead she ended up in two different houses in Oldham where she was exposed to more abuse.
Over a 24-hour period, eight men attacked her and she was raped multiple times.
Only one man, Shakil Chowdhury, now 54, was jailed in 2007 for raping Sophie that night.
“It’s unimaginable to think that that could even happen but it does,” Sophie said.
“But now all you can do is protect others and stop it from continuing.”
Publication of review into child sexual exploitation delayed
A review of child sexual exploitation in Oldham was commissioned in 2019 by the council and safeguarding board.
It has been looking at historical allegations, including social media posts about shisha bars, taxi companies, and children’s homes being involved in the exploitation of young people.
The review was due to be published by the end of last year but it has been delayed.
While the wider findings are still unknown, the provisional conclusions about Sophie’s treatment by the police and the council were thoroughly damning.
“There were significant opportunities missed by children’s social care to intervene and put in place appropriate arrangements to protect Sophie,” the review stated.
“No one raised concerns about the apparent failure to protect Sophie when she presented herself at the police station.
“We believe this is evidence of a significant failing by Greater Manchester Police in their treatment of a vulnerable 12-year-old child.”
The police never identified the desk clerk who was on duty when Sophie went to report being assaulted, and the staff roster has long been destroyed.
Police and the council created the impression of a cover-up
The review stated that Sophie’s experience that night should have led to a multi-agency child protection investigation.
By denying they’d fallen far short of their duties to Sophie, the police and the council created the impression of a cover-up, it added.
The police will apologise to Sophie and Sky News understands the council will too.
“An apology means nothing now,” Sophie said.
“You know, they’ve been found at fault but it’s too late – damage is already done.
“The people in charge need to go. That’s the only way it can be rebuilt and trust can happen.”
In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: “Since it has not yet been published, it is not appropriate for GMP to comment in detail on the report.
“This woman has tragically experienced lasting harm as a result of what happened to her and our failure to protect her. We fully intend to express our deepest and most sincere apology directly to her.”