Child abuse survivor and author of ‘Just a Child’, public speaker, campaigner & fundraiser Sammy Woodhouse exposed the biggest child abuse scandal in British history.
Thank You for attending and presenting recently at SET CPD at New Scotland Yard on 29th and 30th October 2018. The two sessions were attended by over 140 people and presented a daunting challenge. However you not only delivered a truly engaging and thought-provoking presentation but also challenged those officers attending to think very differently about the work they do and the way they interact with young people.
One of the ways to improve Police Officers’ response to the key issues in combatting CSE is to work directly with young people and survivors. Some are survivors who have been through incredible trauma, some are keen to share their ideas and thoughts with Police to help make the improvements required and others just want to provide feedback (good and bad) about their own experiences with Police. All of this makes these survivors experts by their experience and if the Police are to change for the better then we have to change the way we engage and work with young people. We cannot do this alone however, and therefore an opportunity for Police to hear directly from survivors, particularly those who are brave enough to stand up in front of officers, provides for an immensely impactive and meaningful learning experience.
The way in which you delivered this was very inspiring and was a true credit to yourself. The feedback from those attending was very positive and they were very appreciative of the effort and quality of your delivery.
Sufia Matin - Met Police
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Read more about Samantha Woodhouse
Samantha Woodhouse grew up in Rotherham, a small town in the north of England. She lived with her mum, dad and 2 older sisters. As a child she was confident, bubbly, head strong, had lots of friends and did really well at school. From the age of 4-12 she danced around the UK, wanting to be the world’s greatest dancer always getting excited when she saw her name in shiny lights above the stage. She thought she had all her future mapped out. There was nothing vulnerable about her apart from the obvious… She was just a child!
Unfortunately when she was 12 yrs old, dancing ended along with her dreams. Not knowing what to do with herself anymore, she started to hang around the streets.
In the summer of 1999, just after her 14th birthday, she met Arshid Hussain. He was 24 and charming, she soon fell in love. She had no idea it would change her life forever!
He was known to the authorities for being a dangerous man and the leader of a paedophile ring. Decades later he would be known to the world as one of the most dangerous and notorious men in the country…. To Sammy he was just her boyfriend who loved her.
He abused her mentally, sexually and physically for years. He made her pregnant at the age of 14 and 15 – she gave birth to his child in 2001. He groomed her to commit crime too. Astonishingly the police refused to act, and the abuse continued. She was arrested and not him.
Samantha Woodhouse went missing from home and school for days, weeks and even months at any one time. Her parents placed her into care hoping that she would be safe and the abuse would be stopped. Unfortunately that didn't happen – indeed the authorities told him he had to collect her from the top of the street and had to arrive back to the care home for 10pm. He was even allowed to attend appointments with her and go on holiday with her and her foster carer.
He was also violent towards Sammy and her family. On one occasion he hung her over a balcony while she was with her son who was just a few months old. He drove through two parked cars and into a church with Sammy in the car, dragged her to the edge of a hill and threatened to throw her off, set her flat on fire whilst her and her son were inside, put a gun to her head, assaulted her father and wrecked her mum’s car. He stalked her for 24 hours a day. At just 16yrs old she had to move away and cut off all contact with everyone she knew so he couldn't find her. Suffering from major depression she tried to end her life on several occasions.
Sammy left school with no qualifications, a criminal record and incredibly low self-esteem. At 18 she became a model and a lap-dancer. She viewed this as her taking back control and feeling empowered but she now realises it wasn’t empowerment. It was simply a dark and seedy world. She was often sexually assaulted and told it was part of the job. Sammy talks about the drug dealing, money laundering, fraud, trafficking, prostitution and how women are treated appallingly within the world of Lap Dancing.
In 2013 when she was 27, Samantha Woodhouse contacted The Times newspaper. Her story was published in August 2013, triggering the now world renowned ‘Professor Alexis Jay report’, proving 1,400 children was abused and failed in her home town of Rotherham between 1997-2103. Sammy was also the first survivor to disclose her abuse to South Yorkshire police who re opened every child abuse case in South Yorkshire which in turn exposed the biggest child abuse scandal in Great Britain. In February 2016, her abuser was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Dozens have now also been prosecuted. For Sammy her life started on the day her abuser went to prison and she made a decision to use her own experience to help others.
Since she started campaigning Samantha Woodhouse has had significant media attention, raising awareness on a worldwide scale and is now considered a national spokesperson and advocate for Child Sexual Exploitation and surrounding fields. She has received thousands of media offers, her interviews include New York & London Times, Guardian, BBC, SKY news, channel 4 & 5 news, Loose Women, GMB, Closer, Marie Claire, Grazia, New magazine and she appears regularly on Loose Women, This Morning and many leading daytime TV shows.
Sammy has met privately and works with professionals around the UK to help change policies and legislation. Sammy helped change policies in regards to licensing in 2014 at Rotherham MBC and continues to do so at national level. She also met with DfE to ensure all children will learn about healthy and safe relationships in schools, which will come into effect soon. She has also had private meetings with then PM David Cameron, Victims Commissioner, Ministry of Justice and the Home Office as well as other government officials, and she secured £3.1 million to Barnardo’s as well as raising funds for other local charities.
Sammy is profoundly passionate about sharing her experiences to help educate children and adults about Child Sexual Exploitation. She is also a much in demand trainer and speaker, speaking at events and conferences in the UK, Scotland, Wales, Jersey and Northern Ireland. Her campaigns so far includes - counselling services, mandatory education, CICA, Sammy’s Law, licensing, employment changes, legal action against councils, Loose Women’s never too late to tell campaign, court system and training for all professionals.
- National Crime Agency
- Ministry of Justice
- Rape Crisis England and Wales
- Bedfordshire, MET, Surrey, Durham, Birmingham and South Yorkshire Police forces
- TACT and Orange Grove Fostering
- Multiple secondary schools
She participated in the NHS CSE government training film for all medical professionals and was nominated for most positive role model award UK, Best Community Safety Award UK, winner of Suzy Lamplugh Safer Campaign award UK.
As part of the White Ribbon Campaign in 2018, the North Worcestershire Community Safety Partnership commissioned Sammy Woodhouse to be part of an event we wanted to host for young people. The event consisted of young people in year 9’ – 11 being invited to an awareness event around healthy relationships and CSE.
The event was supported by 40 young people attending, Sammy spoke at the end of the event and her story and what she shared with the young people was inspirational, with all the young people in the room being full engaged in her speech and a number following the end of the event approached her to speak about their own situations. I feel that having Sammy at the event allowed young people to relate to situations that were occurring in their own lives, as she spoke about what had happened to herself, and give them hope that there was a way out of the relationships they are in
Bromsgrove and Redditch Council
Powys County Council were delighted to hold their first Multi-Agency Safeguarding Conference during this year’s National Safeguarding Week. ‘See Something… Say Something’ the conference tagline underpinned the themes of the conference; Exploitation, Participation and Engagement. In what was a captivating day, speaker, author and campaigner Samantha Woodhouse got the conference underway giving her very personal and honest account of child sexual exploitation in what was a powerful presentation taking us on a journey through her life. With honesty and courage Samantha shared her moving account of events, which saw the audience captivated. Sharing her experiences Samantha certainly helped to educate, inspire and change the way we view CSE.
The feedback we have received since the conference about Sam’s presentation and workshops have been incredible with so many staff still talking about the conference and Sam over a week later. Many delegates have been moved by Sam’s story and enthused to make a difference.
Powys County Council
“Samantha Woodhouse is a woman of outstanding resilience. Her story of exploitation in Rotherham itself is truly shocking. The hardship she has been forced to endure since breaking away from her abusers would have destroyed most of us mere mortals. She has not only survived but has found superhuman strength to negotiate her way through this whole confusing experience. She was instrumental in securing major convictions of a gang of paedophile exploiters in 2016. To top it all, as "Jessica", she educated the nation through her press engagement during the breaking of the Rotherham scandal and continues to bring in depth understanding of CSE to us all”.
David Greenwood - Child abuse lawyer
We created a training film for the NHS to help staff identify victims of CSE. We felt that helping the viewer understand the realities of being a victim of CSE would provide compelling testimony to reinforce the messaging throughout the film. We were incredibly grateful to Sammy for agreeing to take part. Hers was a truly shocking experience which is sadly all too typical in CSE cases. At the time, she asked for her identity to be protected – a right she has subsequently waived. We spent a few hours interviewing Sammy who shared her experience with humbling honesty. She is able to articulate the full horror of her experience in a highly articulate way that engenders a desire for action rather than sympathy alone. It’s clear to us that she wants others to learn lessons from her experience in the hope that she can help protect other potential victims.”
Lucy Critchlow - Business Development Director Dependable Productions
I have known Sammy Woodhouse aka 'Jessica' for over two years now. Sammy is the survivor whose story ultimately led to Professor Jay's Inquiry into CSE in Rotherham which, in August 2014, reported that a conservative estimate of 1400 girls had been abused in Rotherham over a 16 year period. In 2016 I witnessed first-hand Sammy's bravery, as she endured a harrowing trial in court, which concluded with her abuser being sentenced to 35 years in prison. This trial set the tone for a remarkable response in Rotherham which, between February 2016 and May 2017, has seen 26 criminals convicted of sex crimes against children who are now serving a total of 360 years behind bars. Sammy has worked with the local authority to attract new funding of £3.1m into Rotherham, which enabled the development of a new provision run by Barnardo's to reduce the numbers of children who are vulnerable to CSE. I have also had the privilege of hearing Sammy speak about her ordeal, both as a child victim and now a survivor who has made a commitment to ensuring that awareness of the grooming process is heightened to reduce the risk of others being ensnared by the evil that is CSE. Sammy speaks with passion and anyone listening cannot help but reflect on their practice and make changes for the better.
Ian Thomas - Strategic Director, Children and Young People's Service, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Conference attendees also said:
“There is so much to be said and gained from hearing the stories of real life survivors, Sammy was humbling and very emotive, and this is a significant way of igniting the passion in our work”
“Sammy’s story was amazing, so brave, we need to embrace survivors/service users much more to help challenge and inform our practice”
“After listening to Sammy’s story it makes me wonder how the laws around CSE are not much tougher – a truly inspirational woman”
“Thank you to Sammy who shared her experience in order that we can better understand and tackle this issue”
“The bravery from Sammy who shares her experience with so many should give us all the momentum to stop this happening”
“Sammy spoke at our Annual Safeguarding conference, her passion struck a chord with the delegates whom were in attendance. Her story evoked strong emotion in our delegates and we received an abundance of feedback around staff planning to review policies, disseminating to wider teams and how they will actively within their role seek to provide the service and compassion Sammy sadly did not.”