Life after sexual abuse and grooming

Feb 23, 2024 | News

Sammy Woodhouse endured brutal abuse from her former ‘boyfriend. She faced a huge challenge when she sought help from the authorities. She explains how her strength helped her bring him to justice and help thousands more.

Sammy Woodhouse grew up in a loving family in Rotherham. She met Arshid Hassain at the age of 14, who is now known as the ringleader for a criminal gang that abuses teenage girls. Woodhouse recalls that “once I was in his world, it was very hard to get out.”

Hussain, 24, was not the stereotypical paedophile that she had been warned of – a “fat old man” who would pull up to you in a van offering sweets. He was “good looking, really muscly and well-dressed.” And he made her feel special by showering her with gifts, including flowers, jewellery, and clothes.

Woodhouse thought of him as her boyfriend, and they were in a relationship. He isolated her from her parents and subjected to her almost daily violence. He would rape her and beat her until she passed out or threaten to shoot her in the head.

She managed to escape Hussain when she was 15 and pregnant in 2001, when he went to prison for a violent crime. It took her more than a year to realize that she had been abused and groomed: “The word victim made me feel weak and vulnerable.” A social worker told me: “Well, actually, I think that you are a survivor.” I thought, “OK, that’s something I can handle.”

Woodhouse’s quest for justice began. She reported Hussain’s crimes to the police but was disappointed by their “lazy” attitude in seeking evidence. She claims that they refused to accept DNA evidence from her son, who was fathered Hussain. This, she says, was clear proof of statutory sexual abuse of children under the age of consent. She gathered her own proof – medical, school, and social care records – to prove the abuse. She then approached a reporter with her testimony.

The story, in the which Woodhouse was anonymous, led to an investigation by South Yorkshire Police into all historical cases of sexual abuse and a Rotherham independent inquiry into child exploitation. The investigation revealed the massive scale of grooming and the failure of authorities to respond to the crisis. The report found that the police “did not give priority to child sexual abuse, treating many victims with contempt, and failing to treat their abuse as a criminal”.

Woodhouse’s Just A Child: Britain’s Biggest Child-Abuse Scandal Exposed

Woodhouse, “absolutely terrified”, testified in court against Hussain. He was convicted on 23 charges against nine victims, and sentenced to a 35-year prison term.

She says that hearing the verdict was “an amazing feeling”. “I thought, ‘I can leave that courtroom with a high head and move on to my life.’

Woodhouse decided to give up her anonymity in order to publicly advocate for sexual abuse victims. “I thought to myself: ‘Why am i hiding? I have nothing to hide. In the film she met other survivors and travelled in Rwanda, which is one of the few places that offers specialist support for children born of rape. This was after the 1994 genocide, when sexual violence was used to wage war.

I thought to myself: “Why am I hiding?” I have nothing to hide.

Woodhouse says that the UK must do more to help people like her son, who struggled as a young boy to accept how he was conceived. “As a victim, I have legal rights to [access] support, but my son had nothing.” She also campaigns to strip rapists from their parental rights after Rotherham Council contacted Hussain, in prison, in 2018 offering him the right to say in her son’s care.

Another key goal is getting

Woodhouse’s work in the campaigning field is largely unpaid. She has received death threats because she spoke out about abuse. Her address has been made public. She is determined to spend the rest of her life with her sons, now aged 22 and 17, and two-year old grandson.

“I’ve given my life for the activism.” But I’ve got no regrets. It’s an adrenaline rush to launch a campaign, take on powerful and dangerous individuals, the government, and the system, as well as start a national discussion. It’s addictive.

Main image: Owen Richards

UK residents who are affected by the issues discussed in this article may contact the free National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247, or the Rape Crisis England & Wales support line.

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