23rd May 2022 by Lindsay Toone
Jayne Senior is the youth worker who blew the whistle on the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal. She ran Risky Business, an outreach programme for troubled youngsters in the town, between 1999 and 2011 and during this time reported nearly 1700 cases of grooming or sexual exploitation to the council’s children’s services.
Tell us about your Women of the Year Alumnae talk
For me, it was an opportunity to raise awareness of child exploitation but also a chance to talk about how difficult things can be if you believe in something and stand up and fight for it. I was so pleased that there was a lot of powerful conversation and a lot of relevant questions. I didn’t expect there to be any victims in the audience but it turned out there were. When one of them got up and spoke, like every victim she spoke from her heart and you felt it in your heart. It’s so powerful that somebody is strong enough to do that but so sad to think that they had to go through what they went through. And then to want to come back to give a message to others, that’s inspirational.
The fact that it was an audience of women meant that there was a lot more real, raw emotion. People were upset. They were affected by what I had to say and by what happened in Rotherham. Just like the world has been affected by what happened in Rotherham.
What does community mean to you?
Community is about working together to tackle issues that affect us all, not segregating, separating and blaming each other. Sometimes that’s easier to do than sit down around a table and have difficult conversations. To talk about it, iron it out and look at how to move forward in changing something. I absolutely believe change can only come about if communities work together. To me, it’s our communities who need to be aware of how to spot the signs of a child being groomed, to recognise extremely vulnerable children and know how to report it. We continue to train professionals and we forget that there’s a whole community that are our eyes and ears to help us protect children.
Who are the women who have most influenced you in your life?
I have to say, my mum. For so many years she managed to work and look after a home and four children – three girls and a boy – I think that’s just fabulous. My mum was a very strong woman and I really admire everything she did for us all.
And Louise Casey [Dame Louse Casey led the investigation into children’s services in Rotherham council] because when I was being intimidated and bullied by the council, things got to a stage where I just wanted to give in and I went to meet Louise. We then talked a number of times over several weeks, and there was just something about her. She kept brushing me down and encouraging me to keep going. When I was at my lowest and thinking I couldn’t go on, she picked me up and helped me carry on.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt from another woman in your life?
If you believe something is wrong, have the courage to speak out, even if you end up standing up alone. It’s something my sister said to me when I was contemplating doing what I did.
What advice would you give young women starting out in their lives and careers now?
Remember that you’re equal to everybody. You deserve the same opportunities and the same respect as your male peers. And if you think something’s not right, stand on your morals and say it’s not right.
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