But no. The abuse in Telford is estimated to have involved over 1,000 girls stretching over 40 years. Young girls in the town were groomed, fed drugs and raped. They were passed between abusers like commodities. Some got pregnant, had abortions and were raped again on multiple occasions. Three women were murdered and two others died in tragedies linked to the abuse. Yet these shocking events have received relatively little coverage. Girls in Telford do not, it seems, deserve frontpage coverage in the Guardian or The Times.
The very same newspapers that covered, at length and over many days, news that Kate Maltby’s knee may or may not have been touched by Damian Green or that Michael Fallon attempted to kiss Jane Merrick, were unable to muster up the same level of outrage for young women in Telford.
The lack of comment on the Telford abuse scandal exposes the hypocrisy at the heart of the #MeToo movement. High-profile campaigners announce time and again that they are not driven by self-interest, but from a desire to help women less fortunate than themselves. Jane Merrick told all because, ‘I knew that by failing to act I was letting down not only my 29-year-old self, but also any other women who may have been subjected to the same behaviour since. More importantly, I would be failing to protect other women in future.’ Kate Maltby made a similar declaration: ‘It is true that I have many privileges that other women do not. That is why I owed it to others to come forward. When we see white, financially secure women saying #MeToo, we should ask: where are the voices that we are not hearing?’ Yet Merrick and Maltby, for all their self-sacrifice and sisterly compassion, have so far had nothing to say about the rape of teenage girls in Telford.
Time’s Up, the celebrity #MeToo spin-off, launched a fundraiser to pay legal fees for victims of sexual harassment and assault seeking justice. The aim, it said, was to ‘lift up the voices, power and strength of women working in low-wage industries where the lack of financial stability makes them vulnerable to high rates of gender-based violence and exploitation’. More than $16.7million was raised in less than a month. The British actress Emma Watson, one of the most generous and high-profile donors, posted on social media: ‘The clock’s been ticking on the abuse of power. I stand in solidarity with women across every industry to say #TIMESUP on abuse, harassment, and assault. #TIMESUP on oppression and marginalisation.’ Only, it seems, some women are more deserving of solidarity than others; some women’s voices are more worthy of being lifted up.