Rotherham grooming victim Sammy Woodhouse has said she was “betrayed” by authorities in the town, who failed to act on the violent child rapist for fear of “being perceived as racist”.Now campaigning for other victims of sexual abuse, she said she was “just one of dozens of girls… exploited and viewed as white trash” in Rotherham by Arshid Hussain, a drug dealer ten years her senior from a notorious family of criminals.
“He took everything from me: my loving family, my future, my friends”, Woodhouse told the Mail, recalling that she had “just turned 14” when the then 24 year old began the grooming process.
“He became controlling, possessive and he’d batter me. But the scars of the mental abuse took longer to fade than the bruises. He used to tell me that without him I was nothing and nobody.
“For four or five years, there were times I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed. At my lowest point, I wanted to take my own life.”
Woodhouse’s parents were distraught when they learned Hussain was having sex with their daughter, but the “manipulative” rapist told her people’s concern was borne of racism.
“Your dad just doesn’t like me because he’s a racist”, Woodhouse was told.
The relationship escalated when she began disappearing for days or weeks at a time, moving between flats and B&Bs in Rotherham, many apparently owned by the Hussain family.
“Dad scoured the streets looking for me. He took my photo to every B&B and hotel in the area, asking if anyone had seen me. Mum would cry herself to sleep. It ripped our family apart,” she said.
Fearing for their daughter’s safety, Woodhouse’s parents put her in the care of social service. But despite Rotherham Council knowing that Hussein was a serial abuser, social services did nothing to protect the girl from him
“They failed me massively. I was betrayed by them”, she said. “Mum and Dad were distraught but powerless. The police were scared to be perceived as racist. Nothing was done.
“Meanwhile, I was being sexually abused on a daily basis. Sometimes it was as if I was a dead body lying on a slab. I’d become emotionless. I weighed 7st — I was like a rag doll.
“I started to hear rumours that he was sleeping with my friends, and whenever I confronted him he’d kick off and hit me.”
Woodward described how, during one row while she was pregnant, the violent heroin dealer sped off with her in his car, and crashed it into a wall. Although police charged Hussain with having no tax or insurance, they failed to do anything about the battered, pregnant 15-year-old with him in the car.
The anti-abuse campaigner described how, as a 14 year old, police found her half-naked at one of Hussain’s properties, hiding under the bed.
Ratjer than being concerned about her position as an under-age girl, they cautioned Woodhouse for possession of an offensive weapon after discovering a truncheon — which belonged to Hussain — in her handbag.
“Today, I realise the police failed me. It’s disgraceful that they did not even question Ash, who was 25, about why he was with a girl as young as me,” she said.
Woodhouse is today seeking support from the Prime Minister and Duchess of Cambridge for ‘Sammy’s Law’, a campaign which seeks to wipe clean sexual exploitation victims’ records, asserting that they are often coerced into committing crimes by their abusers.
“The questions have to be asked,” she says: “How and why were they convicted? Are they likely to re-offend, and are they a risk to society?”
She described how, as a 14-year-old, Hussain “had given me the truncheon so I’d get into trouble, not him … Such circumstances should be taken into account, so victims like me can move on with their lives.”
It was not until February last year that the drug dealer was jailed for his crimes against Woodhouse.
“Justice has been done now. It won’t make up for the lost years, but at least other girls are safe from him, and he has 35 years to think about what he’s done.”
“I’ve gone through the worst. I was a victim, then a survivor, and now I’m thriving. My focus now is on my children, and campaigning.”