Why do some grown men think child exploitation is acceptable?
At times, listening to the evidence in the Bullfinch trial, it was genuinely hard to believe anyone could mete out the sort of brutal sexual violence these men were accused of carrying out, against girls as young as 11.
The girls were raped, beaten and burnt with cigarettes. They were urinated on, one was branded with a red-hot piece of wire. Another was assaulted with the handle of a meat cleaver. The list of appalling abuse went on and on.
Perhaps naively, for me, almost as shocking as the nature of the abuse itself was the fact that it wasn’t the preserve of one man, an aberration, a freak. This was the way these girls were treated by many, many men – not just the seven in the dock convicted of a string of offences of rape, trafficking and organising child prostitution, but by the scores, possibly hundreds of men over the years who travelled the country to come and buy sex with them.
Sex with children. Girls of 11, 12 and 13. Girls who were often emaciated because the men who held them captive and sold them often never bothered to feed them.
One of the girls told how one “customer” would choke her until she would pass out. Other men would make the girl scratch herself until she bled. Groups of men would circle an individual girl before raping her one after the other.
There are many questions being asked about the ethnicity of the men involved in this trial and others before it.
A pattern seems to have emerged which shows a disproportionate number of Pakistani Muslim men involved in gangs carrying out this particular way of abusing girls.
Alyas Karmani, works with young men from all backgrounds and from across the country, who are at risk of violent or sexually exploitative behaviour. He acknowledges that there are issues within his own Pakistani Muslim community which need to be looked at, around being more open to discussions about sex, less willing to turn a blind eye to suspicions of abuse.
But he says across the board, what he’s seeing are men and boys of all races who have a profoud and disturbing attitude to young girls. A view, driven by ready access to aggressive pornography, that violence is an integral and acceptable part of sex. That girls and women are simply up for the taking.
Police face record reports of child abuse allegations this year. And clearly much more needs to be understood about the men who’ve featured in these trials… but so much more is also unknown about what makes grown men think it’s acceptable to exploit and abuse a child.
Follow @JackieLongC4 on Twitter