Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Special Investigation: ‘The Far-Right Is Cynically Taking Advantage of Child Sexual Exploitation Survivors’

Andrew Kersley spent five months speaking to survivors of child sexual exploitation and experts on the ‘grooming’ of vulnerable women by far-right groups to understand why it is happening

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

Subscribe now to stay ahead of the curve

Survivors of child sexual exploitation are being exploited by groups linked to the far-right, taking advantage of a lack of support for these vulnerable individuals, to further an anti-Muslim agenda around grooming gangs, a five-month special investigation by Byline Times has found.

This newspaper has spoken to survivors of CSE who were promised paid-for therapy, and were aware of others offered food, televisions and new clothes, by groups with links to the far-right, which then pushed survivors to speak out about their experiences of abuse at rallies.

The practice was described as “grooming” by both survivors themselves and several leading academics Byline Times spoke to.

Members of one group in Hull, with links to multiple neo-Nazi organisations and campaigners, told one survivor that child sexual exploitation was being carried out by “p***s”. After leaving the group, she faced a litany of violent threats and intimidation from its members.

Despite evidence, produced by the Home Office itself, showing that individuals from no single background or religion are more likely than another to commit child sexual exploitation crimes each year, narratives around ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ have become normalised among politicians and media outlets on the right.


Special Investigation: The Network of Far-Right Groups Exploiting the Survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation

Part Two: The interconnectedness of far-right groups reflects the extent to which those holding extreme beliefs have used the issue of child sexual exploitation to further their own ends

Nazir Afzal, a former Crown Prosecution Service lead on child sexual exploitation and the prosecutor in the Rochdale paedophile gang case, told Byline Times that this is part of a wider pattern of the far-right weaponising the issue of ‘grooming gangs’ to further its own aims – with the narrative being used to recruit growing numbers of members and justify anti-migrant and anti-Muslim protests.

This investigation has uncovered that the far-right has been able to exploit a lack of prolonged support for often ignored survivors of child sexual exploitation by government and charities – which helps to explain why survivors are susceptible to any support such groups claim to offer.

Grooming and Threats

Lara (not her real name) did not know what to expect when she was told to attend a meeting by United Hull. 

Having attempted to access NHS mental health support for “years and years”, a friend and another survivor of child sexual exploitation had told her that the group would be able to get her “long-term therapy and justice”. 

She was desperately in need of support to combat the depression and suicidal feelings that were the result of the trauma of her abuse – abuse she said was never properly addressed by the police or other local authorities.

Despite not knowing much about the group, Lara decided to go along. 

“I remember when I was getting in the taxi, I was literally praying, because I was finally going to get some help,” she told Byline Times. “I got to this pub, went in, and there were just lots and lots of men. They were there with a big banner.”

One of the men eventually approached Lara, telling her how “brave” she was for attending the meeting. He said the group would be able to organise psychological support for her. 

But the reality of United Hull’s political beliefs quickly became more apparent. 

Lara said: “They were saying abuse by Asian men was an Islamic thing, and that it was an attack on our country and our British values.” As she had been abused repeatedly by men from a number of different backgrounds and ethnicities, the narrative did not sit well with her.


Special Investigation: ‘Muslim Grooming Gangs’ – An Old Conspiracy Mainstreamed by Today’s Politicians and Press

Part Three: In 2020, a two-year study of crime data and academic research by the Home Office concluded that ‘group-based offenders are most commonly white’

“I remember going out for a cigarette and texting my mate to say ‘I don’t know about this’. And this guy came out and said ‘you’re a survivor aren’t you?’ and I said ‘yes’. And he said ‘we all know it’s the p***s doing this’.”

Lara decided to cut ties with the group. But, in the months and years since, she told this newspaper that she has seen a growing number of child sexual exploitation survivors in the area join it in search of support, justice and validation. These women have had therapy sessions paid for, received financial support, and been gifted televisions, trainers, new tracksuits, and more. Several eventually spoke out about their experiences of abuse at rallies.

Since CSE survivors are afforded lifelong anonymity by the courts, in order to give them complete control over whether they speak out or not, several experts expressed serious concerns about the potential re-traumatising impact of survivors speaking out at these rallies.

Byline Times understands that some of the women left the group after becoming aware of its political leanings.

Last year, multiple members and a leader of United Hull attended a rally held in Hull by the far-right group Patriotic Alternative. 

Videos of the event show United Hull members standing on the other side of a police cordon chanting about refugees being “invaders”. They also screamed abuse at a CSE survivor who attended a counter-protest. Videos show that she is called a “c***” and a “bitch” repeatedly, and subject to thinly-veiled threats about the men knowing who she is and telling her to step away from the protection of the police.


Special Investigation: Society’s Reluctance to Acknowledge the Scale of Child Sexual Abuse and a Lack of Political Support for Its Survivors is Keeping the Vulnerable At Risk

Part Four: The far-right is able to present itself as ‘filling the gap’ left by a lack of services with its own range of ‘support’ for survivors

Despite being a survivor of child sexual exploitation, Lara said she was called a “paedophile sympathiser” by far-right organisers of the rally for vocally opposing the idea of paedophile rings being a Muslim-specific problem. 

“I’m scared in the house, these men know where I live,” she said. “Every time I think I’m going to do something about it, I think ‘they know where I live’.”

United Hull did not respond to Byline Times’ questions. The group has previously denied having far-right leanings. This newspaper understands that at least one leader of the group who was at the Patriotic Alternative rally left after his attendance was revealed.  

A Wider Pattern

The story of United Hull is not the only one Byline Times was told.

Nick Lowles, founder and director of anti-extremism charity Hope Not Hate, said this type of targeting is a pattern he had encountered all too frequently as the “far-right have repeatedly exploited survivors for their political and personal gain”. 

“In Telford, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as ‘Tommy Robinson’, has made a small fortune recounting the stories of young women sexually abused in the town,” he told Byline Times, citing findings from the biography he wrote on Yaxley-Lennon, Tommy.

“No convictions have resulted from his exposés and several of the women have experienced severe trauma resulting from his films, with little or no support offered. Worse still, at least two of Lennon’s aides have had sexual relations with survivors in Telford, one becoming involved in a violent and abusive relationship.”

Representatives for Tommy Robinson did not respond to Byline Times.

Last year, Nigel Bromage, founder of far-right deradicalisation charity Exit Hate and a former neo-Nazi, said that many of the more than 600 people the charity had worked with had a history of being victims of abuse. 

“A lot of these really young girls have gone to the far-right for protection – which they have got – but then they’ve simply been misused and abused themselves,” he told the Media Storm podcast.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as ‘Tommy Robinson’. Photo: PA/Alamy

John North, another former member of the far-right, told the podcast that it targeted people perceived as having “vulnerabilities that they can exploit” when trying to recruit members. That could go beyond survivors of sexual abuse to include those with neurodiversity, people who are socially outcast, come from broken homes, or have just been through a divorce. 

“As much as you don’t want to give these guys credit, it is very, very, very dangerous to just stereotype [the far-right] as being a bunch of drunken idiots. They’ve looked into, researched, and studied ways of radicalising people,” he said.

Anti-fascist protestor Dr Louise Raw, a victim of childhood abuse, was called “a n*nce and rape apologist” and sent death threats by the far-right, for speaking out against its rallies.

When Yaxley-Lennon held a rally in Telford on grooming gangs, Raw was one of the counter-protestors. In a speech, she shared her experiences of abuse with the crowd. “I was just so angry about the far-right claiming to be the ones who care about victims and anti-fascists being labelled ‘paedophile protectors’,” she said.

Dr Raw told Byline Times that a friend who had been subject to “years of grooming” was contacted by several prominent far-right figures with promises to raise money for her to receive therapy. When their political persuasions became apparent, she tried to cut ties. 

“At this point, these ‘caring’ and ‘victim-supporting’ people began to threaten her and say she should kill herself and that her children should be drowned,” Dr Raw recalled. “The far-right is cynically taking advantage of child sexual exploitation survivors. They are using victims to further their racist agendas.”

Written by

This article was filed under
, , , , , , , , , ,