A child sex abuse victim is alleging her jailed rapist was offered the chance to see her son, who was born as a result of the attack.
Sammy Woodhouse, who has waived her legal right to anonymity in a bid to help other victims, released a video on Tuesday calling for the British government to change the law after a local council in the English city of Rotherham offered her rapist the option to apply “parental rights” over her son, she alleges. Woodhouse was attacked when she was a teen.
“This story is actually about myself, about my son, and about the man that raped me,” she said in the video posted on Twitter.
“And the fact that Rotherham Council have offered him to apply for parental rights over my child even though (it was) proven in a court of law – that (he) was sentenced to 35 years – that he was a danger to myself and to other children.”
Alongside British Member of Parliament Louise Haigh, Woodhouse is advocating for a change to the 1989 Children Act to ensure that “rapists can’t gain access to children conceived through rape and abuse,” she said.
The issue arose when the council sought alternative care for her son – a move taken with the support of Woodhouse, as she was unable to cope with her troubled son’s complex needs, the Times of London reports.
The local council is obliged by law to notify all respondents – including people with “parental responsibility” – of the case, the newspaper said.
But her rapist, identified by the UK Press Association as Arshid Hussain, was listed by the council as a respondent even though he did not have parental responsibility nor was he listed as the boy’s father on his birth certificate, the Times reports.
Woodhouse was told during a court hearing that her abuser was consulted on the case and that he would be allowed to attend court and seek legal representation. He may even be authorized visitation rights, or her son could be placed in the custody of Hussain’s relatives, the Times reports.
“I was absolutely mortified when I found out and the fact as well that they did not even tell me what they were doing until I was actually at court,” she told Good Morning Britain on Wednesday.
A Rotherham Council spokesperson declined to comment on any “specifics of the case,” but told CNN they are in touch with the UK Ministry of Justice as to how they must comply with legal requirements, which include “giving notice of proceedings to parents with or without formal parental responsibility.”
“It is imperative that clarity is realized as soon as possible, not just for Rotherham, but to ensure that other councils across the country who may face similar issues are able to act with certainty and no more survivors of abuse have to experience further trauma” the spokesperson added.
The Ministry of Justice told CNN that this is “obviously a very distressing incident” and confirmed that national government and local authorities are working together urgently to understand and address what happened.
“Local authorities can apply to courts to request permission not to notify parents without parental responsibility about care proceedings, and courts should consider the potential harm to the child and mother when making this decision,” the ministry said in a statement.
Although Hussain never made an application to see the child, Woodhouse said a law change will help protect other victims around Britain.
“This is happening all over the country and it needs to stopped,” Woodhouse, who speaks widely on child sex exploitation and has written a book on the subject, said in the video.
It is not clear whether this case is the result of an error by the council or indicates a wider problem with the law, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) told the Press Association.
Hussain was the ringleader of a child abuse gang and was jailed in 2016 for 35 years after being convicted of 23 child sex offenses.
A 2014 report found that hundreds of children had been systematically raped, beaten and sex trafficked in Rotherham for more than 12 years.
The revelations also exposed cultural tensions and lack of communication between authorities and the town’s ethnic minorities that may have helped stop it.
Social counselors saw evidence of sexual exploitation early on, but turned a blind eye, according to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham.