In a video marking International Women’s Day, Priti Patel said the South Yorkshire town had been “shattered through the whole issue of grooming gangs”.
And she said that although her visit to Rotherham had been “quite a daunting, but also shocking experience”, she was in awe of the determination of those now campaigning for change.
Ms Patel said: “The reason why I went to Rotherham was because of the sheer horror around grooming gangs, and the abuse of young girls and children across very, very specific communities.”
She said along with Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion - who she called an “incredible advocate” - she had met victims of “appalling grooming gang abuse”.
She said the victims she met “to this day still speak about the sense of injustice that they have experienced, the fact that people in power chose not to hear their voices, chose not to believe them and listen to their cases”.
“And by having those conversations, not only did I meet the victims, but also I saw how the victims themselves are so determined to not just put an end to the abuse that took place in the community, but also to raise people’s sights and awareness in government, across the state, in local councils, across policing, across all those various bodies that have a statutory duty to protect girls and children,” she said.
“And to highlight many of the failures that took place at the hands of the state.”
She added: “Through their sheer determination, they have been able to really influence the strategies that we are now adopting when it comes to child sexual exploitation and abuse, but also by putting victims, vulnerable victims, very much at the heart of all our work in this entire area.