"From pain to power" ex-detective to help grooming gang survivors

Local women and an ex-police whistleblower are looking for help to open the first centre dedicated to treat girls abused by gangs in Rochdale.

Maggie Oliver, the officer who resigned from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and went public over the botched Rochdale grooming inquiry, said there is little help out there for those still suffering torment at the hands of their abusers.

With the help of a network of local women and the community, she hopes to change that in the New Year.

The Maggie Oliver Foundation, launched in July, is a new charity, with premises, a centre manager and funding officer now being sought; their mission is to "transform pain into power".

This week a group of local women handed over £2,255 for the foundation, after 15 of them did a sponsored walk up Mount Snowdon.

One of the walkers, Ange Neild said: "I'm passionate about this because I've worked in substance abuse.

"Many become trapped in substance abuse in their life due to physical and sexual abuse of the past.

"Day care services will work on substance abuse, triggers, cravings, but not address the underlying reason, the abuse.

"The damage lasts a life time."

In Rochdale, from at least 2003, girls as young as 13 were plied with drugs and alcohol before being passed around by grooming gangs and forced into sex with multiple men in flats and above takeaway shops.

The abuse continued for over a decade with police viewing the victims as "making lifestyle choices" often living "chaotic"' lives and either in care or from "council estate" backgrounds.

Ms Oliver's critical role in exposing how gangs of Asian men were preying on teenage girls was dramatised in Three Girls, one of the most watched BBC dramas of the year when it was first screened in 2017.

She said: "When survivors come through the door they do not want to talk about their abuse straight away.

"That takes time and the building up of trust.

"I want the centre to be a welcoming place and become like a family with volunteers and mentors as well as skilled professionals, a place of safety.

"We will do a triage, offer life advice, therapy, group work, counselling, and we need the right professionals and to build partnerships with education and training establishments.

"I'm now looking for the right location to open the pilot centre in February or March.

"We need corporate funding, sponsorship, and we would be grateful if any businesses that would like to support us would nominate us as their charity."

A sponsored walk around Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale for survivors and supporters is planned for Sunday February 2.

Ms Oliver added: "This pilot centre is not going to happen unless people in the community get involved.

"If anybody who lives in and around this area wants to be involved look out for our meet ups and come on the walk. Everyone is welcome."

More information can be found at www.themaggieoliverfoundation.com or email info@themaggieoliverfoundation.com