The character played by Maxine Peake in tonight’s Rochdale abuse drama Three Girls is based on – and shares a name with – Sara Rowbotham, the social worker who spent 10 years of her life getting Rochdale council to take child grooming seriously.
Rowbotham worked for a specialist sexual health support service advising young people vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, and the horrifying case exposing a widespread child sex ring in the city took over her life entirely.
Amazingly, Rowbotham speaks candidly about how harrowing those ten years were when she features on Channel 4’s First Dates finale on May 23rd. Rowbotham tells her date that she became a whistleblower and exposed the extent of the child abuse – and that she’s being played by Peake on BBC1.
“The story was sensational and tragic and awful and shook the world,” she explains. In a moving scene Rowbotham then tells the First Dates camera why she’s on the show.
“I’m coming out of a very difficult, dark time. I’m ready to start to live my life again where I haven’t been for such a long time. And be able to just have nice times and not be so stressed or worried or anxious or angry. To be carefree.”
Three Girls starts tonight at 9pm on BBC1. Rowbotham’s First Dates episode airs on 23rd May at 10pm on Channel 4