Q: What happened to you when you were a teenager and how did it impact your life?
Sammy Woodhouse: I grew up in Rotherham and lived with my parents and two older sisters, and we were just a normal family. As a child I was confident, bubbly, with lots of friends and good at school. I was also a dancer, so from the age of 4 and up to 12, I was travelling all around the country, taking part in dancing competitions. When I got to 12 years old, the dancing team folded and I started hanging out in my local park, my local shop, with my friend.
Just after my 14th birthday in 1999, I was at my local shop with a friend and a man [Arshid Hussain] drove up in a silver sports car and started talking to my friend, who already knew him. He didn't feel like a complete stranger to me. He asked if we wanted to go for a spin in the car and we thought it would be cool, so we said yes. That was the moment my life changed forever and I would go on to be abused mentally, sexually and physically for several years, as well as groomed to commit crime.
The Times: ‘Jailed rapist given chance to see his victim’s child’.— Sammy Woodhouse (@sammywoodhouse1) November 27, 2018
Rotherham council have offered convicted rapist access to my son.
This is happening all over the UK and must stop! An investigation and change in law is needed. https://t.co/dxSnGt29Is pic.twitter.com/7nJ1jnvJGN
I started going missing for days and even months at a time. I was in hotels being beaten. I was even introduced to his family home.
I always thought I knew what a paedophile was — this fat old man in a flat who would look out of his window, watching schoolkids. He would pull up in a van, kidnap you and you would never see your mom and dad again — that to me was a paedophile. The man who drove up to us in a car didn't fit that description: he was 24, he was good looking, Muslim and seemed a really nice guy.
He came across to me as my prince charming. The grooming part — which I always say is the most dangerous of crimes — consisted in him coming to my world and learning all about my life, my friends, my parents and my interests. He told me he liked the same things that I did, so it was like we had a lot in common. My friends knew his friends, so it was almost as if it was meant to be.
Once he learned all this information about me, he took me into his world, which of course was very different to mine. Once I was in, it was very dark, violent and difficult to escape.
At 14, I got very basic sexual education in school. I got my sex education from Hussain. I first became pregnant when I was 14 and had an abortion. I then got pregnant again when I was 15, which I kept. My son is now 17.
It got to the point where I was getting beaten and raped all the time. My parents placed me in foster care thinking it would be safer with more professionals involved. But I was never treated as a victim by the authorities, rather as his girlfriend, mistress and part of his gang.
Unfortunately, I saw police and officials doing a lot of things they should not have done. They were buying steroids from me and passing on information. The people who were there to protect me — were actually working with him and turning a blind eye to it.
He went to prison when I was 16 years old, because he kidnapped someone and stabbed him several times with a screwdriver. That gave me a chance to get away from him, to start building relationships with my family.
I gave birth to my son just after turned 16. My son became my focus. It took me over a decade to realize this man wasn't what I thought.
I thought he was my boyfriend who cheated and beat me all the time. When I was about 27 I started realizing I was a victim of child sexual exploitation and I came forward to the authorities, but they weren't very helpful. So I contacted a journalist in 2013 and when my story was published, I gave so much evidence that I was able to name the man that raped me.
I also named the deputy leader of Rotherham council for his involvement and that's what has exposed the Rotherham scandal and prompted Professor Alexis Jay's report. It revealed there was a minimum of 1400 children like myself — groomed, abused, raped, some sold, some murdered. The authorities knew about it and covered it up. They were scared to be called racist.
My abuser was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and I thought that was it and I was finally free of him. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The authorities have now offered him to apply for custody and parental rights over my son.
Arshid Hussain — jailed for 35 years for CSE offences in #Rotherham as part Operation Clover — has been given another prison sentence after being found guilty of indecent assault pic.twitter.com/qCw97MBDNT— Hallam FM News (@hallamfmnews) November 21, 2017
They didn't even tell me they were doing that. The council waited until I was at court, for him to walk in and cross examine me. It was proven in court that he was a danger, who has harmed me and my son. The fact that the authorities wanted to put my son in direct harm, after everything we had been through, is absolutely horrendous.
Women all over the country find themselves in a similar situation. Their abusers raise the children, the mothers get to see their kids a few times a year. In some cases, women have to go to support centres and sit there face-to-face with the men who raped them — to share the custody of their children. It happens because the authorities want to ensure these mean have their human and parental rights. It is absolutely shocking and it needs to stop.
Q: Has the government at any point issued any compensation or any financial help to you?
Sammy Woodhouse: I've taken legal action against Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire police, and I won. I applied for compensation, called the Criminal Injury Claims (CICA), and I was refused. I was told I consented to my own abuse, which was shocking. So I started a campaign against them and I won. I won the appeal and they are now being investigated because they have done it to thousands of people around the country, blaming children for being raped.
Q: Why did you seek a care order with the support of Rotherham council?
Sammy Woodhouse: Back in 2014, I suffered a major depression and was very suicidal. I contacted the authorities for help and asked to place my son under Section 20 [of the Children Act 1989], which meant he would be in care but I would have full parental rights over him. Last year, I went to court to see whether he would return home. We tried but it didn't work out, so I agreed to place him in full care as long as I would have full involvement with him.
It was then when the authorities told they'd gone to the prison where Hussain was held, gave me him legal documents and offered him to raise my son, despite being in prison for 35 years and proven to be a danger to the child. He could apply for full custody. They would be able to take my son to visit him in prison.
Q: The petition to change the legislation has now gained more than 370,000 signatures, what is your main goal?
Sammy Woodhouse: I have asked for full investigation into family courts. I want to know how many people have this been done to in the country. I have asked for every council to be sent the actual guidelines and the fact they can't be overturning decisions before they even get to the perpetrators. I asked for proper legal advice given to people such as myself. I have also asked for a change in the Child Act 1989 to ensure that rapists can't have access to children conceived through rape and abuse. Across the entire board, there needs to be an overhaul. Professionals are making the wrong decisions and it has to be stopped.
I have waived my anonymity and am in contempt of court. The family courts are closed until the child is 18 years old but they have to be open. We need to know what's going out. Women in similar situations are in absolute fear they will be sent to prison if they speak out.
People have contacted me with hundreds of their stories. I have got a TV production team working with me because I want to be making documentaries. I want people to share their stories. I also want to look into what is happening across the country — not just with family courts — but with cover-ups as a whole. We need to work together to tackle is as one.
Q: Are you getting any help from the officials? What happened during your recent visit at the Parliament?
Sammy Woodhouse: Three MPs in Rotherham have supported me. I did go to the House of Commons and the reception appeared quite good. Some MPs said they would like to get on board. I will try to get the support of as many politicians as possible to try and change the law.
But I also got the impression for the ministers it wasn't something they really wanted to tackle. I got the impression they felt everything was OK with the family courts. I was really disappointed. As a whole, there are a lot of people in the parliament who are out of touch with what's going on in the country. I don't think they understand the seriousness of the problem and how many people this is affecting.
Update #familycourts: Myself an @LouHaigh met with @lucyfrazermp & raised to PM at House of Commons.— Sammy Woodhouse (@sammywoodhouse1) December 7, 2018
I’ll be working with a tv production company to raise issues. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please sign the new Parliament petition: https://t.co/iKixhDRIR1 pic.twitter.com/1RB36hmjoi
They said they would think about these things and let me know.
There is a bill going through in the new year. If the politicians want it to be passed it can be done very quickly. I don't think they do.
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.