Urgent research needed into ‘boyfriend model’ of sex abuse, say experts | UK news

Calls are being made for urgent research into the “boyfriend model” of sex abuse that was used by the Newcastle sex trafficking network and others in high-profile grooming scandals.

It is characterised by a vulnerable person being encouraged to believe they are in a loving relationship with their abuser. The victims are often then coerced into having sex with the abuser’s friends or associates.

In a series of four trials at Newcastle crown court, juries found 17 men and one woman guilty of nearly 100 offences between 2011 and 2014 – including rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply.

The female victims, who were between the ages of 13 and 25, were plied with alcohol and drugs before being sexually assaulted. Northumbria police characterised the abuse as following the boyfriend model.

The case bore clear similarities to grooming scandals elsewhere in the UK, including in Rotherham and Rochdale, which featured gangs of British Asian men abusing white girls. Those prosecuted in Newcastle were from Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish backgrounds.

Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor for north-west England, said the model of abuse was little understood and the government should commission research as a matter of urgency. “The number of Asian men committing this particular type of abuse is disproportionately high, but it is important that we examine the reasons for that,” he said.

Afzal suggested that many offenders from grooming rings in other cities were now out of prison and could be interviewed about the reasons they offended. He said that potential future victims of this model of abuse could not wait around for the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse to report its findings. “In four years’ time we’ll find out what we should have been doing four years ago,” he said.

The inquiry was established in July 2014, but has faced setbacks as three of its chairs have resigned. A spokesman for the inquiry, which is now chaired by Alexis Jay, said it would not be appropriate for them to comment on the Newcastle convictions, but that they had noted them with interest. “The inquiry’s investigation into child sexual exploitation by organised networks is well under way,” he said.

Among others to call for more research to be conducted into the boyfriend model of abuse was Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham and shadow minister for women and equalities. Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme on Thursday morning, she called on the government to find out why so many men involved in child abuse rings have been British Pakistani.

“We have got hundreds of Pakistani men who have been convicted of this crime, why are we not commissioning research to see what is going on? … Are these cultural issues? Is there some sort of message going out within the community?”

A 2011 report by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre analysed data from individuals thought to have committed grooming offences. While the ethnicity of 38% of the individuals was unknown, 30% were white, 28% Asian, 3% black and 0.16% Chinese. About 7% of the UK population is Asian. However, the body said that the data was too incomplete from which to draw conclusions.

Peter Saunders, who set up the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said that white men “had a lot to answer for too”. He said: “We’ve discussed the Catholic church and all sorts of other institutions that have covered up and perpetrated abuse.

“It has nothing to do with religion, but these people [in grooming cases] seem to come from that background and there’s obviously something that needs to be looked at there. We need to do it because this is going on everywhere. It’s not just Newcastle, Rotherham and Rochdale.”

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