Press Release: 22 March 2011

Follow-up to ROTA (Race on the Agenda) Female Voice in Violence report that discovered the use of "rape as a weapon of choice" against women and girls in London finds more weapons, less choice for females suffering from serious violence across the country.

England is failing to protect girls under the age of 18 from sexual and physical serious violence, according to new research by ROTA (Race on the Agenda).

Girls and women across the country who disclose experience of rape, torture, abuse, exploitation and manipulation as a result of their relationships with gang-associated male family members and peers are at risk of repeat abuse and victimisation.

The findings will be presented at an event with Report Author, Carlene Firmin, MBE and Deputy Children's Commissioner, Sue Berelowitz on Tuesday 22 March.

A female participant in the research said,

"I told someone something once and it just made everything worse. If I thought for one minute that it would help me then I'd talk but I know that it won't so what's the point?"

The findings of ROTA's latest report, gathered from over 300 interviews with girls, women and males in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and London, are a startling reminder of the need for national guidance and local action in order to identify at-risk women and girls and protect them to exit gang-related violence.

Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz said,

"This extraordinary report sets out starkly, in the words of the young people interviewed, that too many girls in our midst are in danger from sexual exploitation, violence and abuse.

"I urge national and local government, the police, health services and community leaders to demonstrate that the compelling and distressing testimonies documented in this report have not been given in vain. Gang-associated sexual exploitation and serious youth violence should be recognised as abuse and agencies should respond accordingly."

Report Author, Carlene Firmin, MBE said,

"We have spoken to hundreds of women and girls, and men and boys, from across the country now. We should no longer question whether or not gang-related or serious youth violence is an issue for women and girls across England. It is.

We won't make any further progress in protecting these women and girls until we take decisive action to enable them to come forward safely. Without these structures in place we will be having these same conversations in ten years' time."

Elizabeth Henry, CEO, ROTA said,

"The report has identified the need for guidance and support both locally and nationally to prioritise and protect gang-associated women and girls. To do anything less would be to abandon girls and women to violent and distressing circumstances. Action needs to be taken to implement the recommendations made in the report."

– Ends –

Notes to Editors

  1. Press enquiries should be directed to Ryan Mahan, Communications Manager,, 020 7902 1949.
  2. This is it. This is my life…: the Female Voice in Violence final report on the impact of serious youth violence and criminal gangs on women and girls across the country illustrates the impact of criminal gangs and serious youth violence on women and girls across Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and London. 
  3. ROTA (Race on the Agenda) is a social policy research organisation that focuses on issues impacting on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. As a BAME-led organisation, all ROTA's work is based on the principle that those with direct experience of inequality should be central to solutions to address it. Our work is actively informed by the lived experiences of BAME communities and their organisations. Our policy priorities are health, education and criminal justice. You can find out more at 
  4. The Children's Commissioner for England was established under The Children Act 2004 to be the independent voice of children and young people and to champion their interests and bring their concerns and views to the national arena. The Commissioner's work must take regard of children's rights (the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) and seek to improve the wellbeing of children and young people.