It was never going to be an easy watch, and certainly, those of you unaware of the Rochdale abuse scandal should know that ‘Three Girls’ comes with a heavy trigger warning for those who may be affected by scenes of rape.
The case originally came to light in 2012 after years of being suppressed by local authorities. A number of young, predominantly white working class girls in Rochdale, Manchester, were being systematically groomed, abused and trafficked into a sex trade by a gang of predominantly Pakistani men. First, they would coerce the vulnerable young women with gifts, drink and drugs. Then, they would rape and prostitute them.
Nine of the men were eventually sentenced in 2012 for their part in the child sex ring, while nine more were only jailed in 2016. The local authorities were blamed for failing to expose the ring sooner.
So far, so difficult to read, let alone put together in a three-part series. However, the BBC’s drama ‘Three Girls’ has been highly praised for its portrayal of the harrowing scandal by audience members and campaigners alike.
Watching #threegirls and it’s horrific. This isn’t a question of race… these are dangerous and disgusting men that abused young women.
— Hannah Woolcott (@HannahWoolcott) May 16, 2017
I hope there are some teenage girls watching this that recognise the signs and get help #threegirls
— Kerry Pickles (@KerryLouW) May 16, 2017
Brave, important television #threegirls
— John Connell (@JConUK) May 16, 2017
Bloody hell watching #threegirls is a hard watch, but needs to be shown really. Should be shown in high schools this..
— EmsieBear ♡ (@EmilyCAndrews) May 16, 2017
It’s like watching sections of your life. I’m sure 1000s will identify with this #threegirls
— Emma Jackson (@emmajackson2010) May 16, 2017
It also sparked some interesting debate on the details of the scandal itself and the attitudes of the public towards it:
Whistleblowers on grooming were mainly women. Rapists were solely men. Those in power ignoring were mainly men. Issue isn’t race #ThreeGirls
— Jean Hatchet (@JeanHatchet) May 17, 2017
— Samira Ahmed (@SamiraAhmedUK) May 16, 2017
— Tender (@TenderUK) May 16, 2017
It wasn’t just three girls either, it was 1,400 and counting. #threegirls
— Danielle Louise (@danidotx) May 16, 2017
— Amy Elizabeth (@Aimes_c) May 16, 2017
“If they rape u, you don’t go back for more do you?”
Yes you do
Bcos the effects of the grooming process messes with your head #ThreeGirls
— Sue Crocombe (@shinybluedress) May 16, 2017
She’s just told the police she’s been raped and she’s nearly instantly asked if she has had sex before. Why is that relevant? #ThreeGirls
— Jennifer 🌛 (@teapotdreaming) May 16, 2017
Maxine Peake, Jill halfpenny, Paul Kaye and three very talented young actresses including Molly Windsor, were also lauded for their performances.
The identities of the survivors of the Rochdale abuse case were carefully kept anonymous and the girls themselves shown the series ahead of it airing. Their bravery in allowing their stories to be told, in the hope that raising awareness like this will go some way to preventing the same happening to others, should not go unnoticed or without praise either.
The fact dramas about cases like this, featuring some uncomfortable truths about the failures of the Criminal Justice System and the local authorities to protect these girls, are being given prime TV airtime is a huge step forward in the fight to end violence against women and girls.
‘Three Girls’ continues on BBC One tonight at 9pm and concludes on Thursday night at 9pm. Those who missed the first part of the series can catch it on BBC iPlayer now. Its not comfortable but it is necessary. Watch it.
If you are negatively affected by any issues raised, either by reading this piece or watching the show, remember you can get free advise about rape and sexual abuse by calling the National Rape Crisis England and Wales Helpline on 0808 802 9999, or in Scotland on 08088 01 03 02. You can also visit the website here.