BBC One’s Three Girls Highlights CSE

Three Girls tells the story of three of the children who were victims in the 2012 grooming and sex trafficking case in Rochdale.

The three part drama Three Girls that concluded last night on BBC One powerfully depicted the real life stories of just three of the victims in the Rochdale child sexual exploitation cases between 2008 and 2012.

Many people have taken to the internet to express how difficult the programme was to watch, but also how important it is to highlight the issues raised in the drama. Since 2010, there has been a growth in reporting and media coverage around child sexual exploitation, but many people still are unsure exactly how this abuse happens. Three Girls has played a vital role in raising awareness and increasing understanding of the issue, so that we can all play a part in the fight to end child sexual abuse and exploitation. Thank you to the young women who bravely spoke out about their experiences.

We have heard repeatedly in the media over recent years about how professionals in many areas failed the young people they were supposed to protect. Three Girls takes a closer look at the very personal views and attitudes that led to this, as well as the signs and symptoms of abuse that were recognised and repeatedly reported by sexual health worker, Sara Rowbotham, played by Maxine Peake.

Three Girls highlighted the detrimental impact of child sexual exploitation on the young people involved. We know from our experience of working with young people for the past 15 years that sexual abuse affects, amongst other things, young people’s physical, mental and sexual health, their family relationships, and their education. We hope, that if this abuse were to come to light now, that young people like Holly, Ruby and Amber, would receive a much better response, and get the specialist support they need.

The drama also illustrated that it is not young people from ‘a certain type’ of family that are affected, as one of the police officers in the show exclaims before DC Maggie Oliver (played by Lesley Sharpe) puts him right. Young people from any background can be a victim. Holly had what we might think of as ‘typical’ teenage arguments with her parents, that every young person is likely to have at one time or another. Her parents were not abusive, disinterested or unsupportive; her natural vulnerability as a teenager led to an opportunity for the perpetrators to manipulate her.

Safe & Sound has been working with children and young people affected by sexual exploitation since 2002, and has supported young women with similar experiences to those of Holly, Ruby and Amber, helping them move to a place of safety. However, this is not how every case of child sexual exploitation happens; any child could become a victim of this form of abuse; boys and girls, from any background, culture or ethnicity and the perpetrators of this abuse can be male or female, they can operate alone, and they may contact and abuse children online. We must remember this to ensure that we don’t miss other cases of exploitation and abuse where the signs and symptoms do not ‘fit’ with what we are expecting to see.

In addition to working with young people affected by sexual exploitation, we also provide training for professionals working with children, young people and families, looking at many of the issues raised in Three Girls such as spotting the signs, myth busting, how to engage vulnerable young people and working with families who have been affected. Please have a look at our courses here.


In 2011, a year prior to the Operation Span convictions in Rochdale, nine men were jailed for their part in the abuse of 27-known victims over two years following Operation Retriever in Derby in which we worked closely with the police to provide intelligence. Retiring Police Chief Constable Mick Creedon has now embarked on a charity bike ride across Derbyshire to raise funds supporting the work we do with young people at risk of sexual exploitation.

In the Derby Telegraph yesterday, he said when commenting on Three Girls: “I thought it was very sad and shocking. It’s real life, I did not like watching it but I think it’s very important that we get the message out there. It made me uncomfortable but hopefully it will make people realise that there is help out there like Safe and Sound, which is a brilliant charity.”

“Safe and Sound is really crucial. People support charities for lifeboats and cats and dogs but they are big national charities. The work Safe and Sound do is quite hidden. People do not know what they are about.”

“There are around 400,000 households in Derbyshire. If everybody just gave a couple of pounds a year, it would be fantastic. They get grants but it’s also up to things like this bike ride to raise money for them, so they can carry out the work they do.

“If it was not for Safe and Sound, then where would people go? They would be back on the streets and being exploited again.”

You can read the rest of the article on the Derby Telegraph website.

To donate, please visit Mick Creedon’s fundraising page.



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