Friday, 5 October 2012

Knight errant

I'm shocked and totally disgusted that during the several decades that Sir Jimmy Savile was abusing girls and young women, everyone around him knew about it but did precisely nothing. People at the BBC, other presenters, the media, they all knew but kept their mouths firmly shut.

All this time the public were still blissfully ignorant, seeing him as a funny, lovable eccentric who raised millions of pounds for charity and was a role model for alienated rebels everywhere. They hadn't a clue what he was really up to behind the innocent facade.

Why is there always this entrenched conspiracy of silence about these perverts, particularly the ones in high places? Why does nobody say a word for fear that they're the ones who'll be jumped on and not the little toerag they're exposing?

The journalist Janet Street Porter, revealing on BBC's Question Time how widely Savile's abuse was known about, defended her own silence by saying that as a woman in a male-dominated workplace nobody would have taken her seriously.

Others were silent for a variety of reasons. Because Savile's public reputation seemed impregnable. Because they knew other people would close ranks. Because he threatened to stop helping charities if anyone told the truth. Because they feared some sort of retaliation.

But it's this endless conspiracy of silence that allows abusers to get away with it not just for years but often for decades. How on earth can keeping silent still be more normal than protecting vulnerable young women and girls from lasting psychological and emotional trauma?

In the name of common decency and humanity, these shameful cover-ups have to stop.

24 comments:

Scarlet Blue said...

Yes, this is an odd one. I'm finding these stories about Jimmy Savile disturbing. Even more disturbing is that... I feel like I already knew this about him... maybe it was already in the public consciousness?

Sx

Bijoux said...

I have no idea who he is, but the real story is the cover up. So many reasons why people don't want to get involved. It truly is sad.

Nick said...

Scarlet: You might be right, something had seeped out into the public awareness, even though it was never spelled out for what it was.

Bijoux: Sir Jimmy was a very well-known TV presenter with numerous famous programmes - in particular Jim'll Fix It. Just about everyone in the country would have known who he was.

kylie said...

not to minimise the suffering it causes but i see sexual abuse as a very specific form of bullying and how many times do bystanders take on a bully?
i think that bullies of all varieties have power over many more people than their direct victims and people are loathe to get involved because of the losses they might suffer or because they know they wont be listened to.
so what i am saying is that the bullies disempower the observers almost as much as the victims.
and thats not to excuse the people who keep the silence but it is how i think it all comes about

Nick said...

Kylie: You have a point about bullies disempowering both victims and observers. And yes, sexual abuse is very much a type of bullying. But the BBC managers could easily have acted if they wanted to. I can only assume that his massive TV audience was one of the factors in their non-action.

Wisewebwoman said...

Two issues come to mind with regard to this vile creature.

Whistleblower legislation needs to be enacted to protect those who register complaints.

Until value is placed on women and girls this will continue.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: In theory whistleblowers are already protected from being treated badly or dismissed under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Unfortunately there is no proper enforcement of the law so in practice whistleblowers can still be punished in one way or another.

Indeed, the ultimate safeguard is women and girls getting proper respect instead of being forever treated as second-class citizens.

Grannymar said...

Nick, this whole can of worms about sexual abuse is raising its head again. Look how the young people were treated when reporting their abusers in the various churches. NOBODY BELIEVED THEM. It would have been the same with celebrities... especially someone who did 'so much good' for children and Stoke Manderville Hospital. The BEEB were probably watching their viewing figures and TV licence money. Turn your head the other way was very much the rule of the day.

Nick said...

Grannymar: It's true there was less awareness of sexual abuse a few decades ago and victims were less likely to be believed. Especially as you say when Sir Jimmy was raising colossal sums for charity. I mean, helping charities, diamond geezer right?

Secret Agent Woman said...

We just had this story with Jerry Sandusky abusing many boys at Penn State with knowledge all the way to the top coach, Joe Paterno. And of course, there was all the cover up involved with Catholic priests who were sexually abusing kids. It's disgusting that people are willing to turn a blind eye while children are hurt.

Nick said...

Agent: Yes, I heard about the Jerry Sandusky business. Another large-scale cover-up. Indeed, what could be more important than protecting vulnerable kids?

Apparently huge numbers of people in the Republic have deserted the Catholic Church because of the sexual abuse revelations.

Rummuser said...

This is a universal phenomenon and India is no exception. The powerful get away with atrocious behaviour mostly because despite being aware, the establishment does not do anything about it and often the weak get put off by the police who refuse to register complaints against the powerful. (http://www.newsx.com/videos/police-inaction-blamed-increasing-gangrapes)

Nick said...

Ramana: True, the establishment tends to close ranks when one of their number is being accused of something heinous. And true also, the police often don't take complaints seriously. They frequently suggest the accuser is making it all up.

blackwatertown said...

re GM's comment - I've heard various versions as to why the BBC held back in its investigations of Savile's child abuse - I'm looking forward to more revelations on the way.

Nick said...

Paul: It's interesting that everyone says Sir Jimmy's reputation is totally ruined, but nobody says anything about the BBC's reputation, even though what he was doing was common knowledge at the Beeb.

Ursula said...

Nick, this is one of those occasions when it's NOT gratifying that my gut feeling was right. I took one look, and one look only, and this was ages ago, at the guy and thought: What a creep. "Jim'll fix it". Sure.

But then my parents, in an unobtrusive way, taught me early on how to recognize the signs.

I don't quite understand why some of those violated didn't throw a hand grenade earlier. The BBC might be mighty. Sure. But not so mighty that none of those ninnies couldn't have drawn attention to their plight earlier. See above: I blame parents if they haven't ensured that no child of theirs is taken advantage of without them [parents] knowing about it.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Many many people are now saying they always thought he was a bit creepy. Funny, I just saw him as a crazy eccentric and I think a lot of other people did. But yes, why didn't those violated or all those people at the BBC who knew what was going on, say something earlier? En masse if necessary in order to be taken seriously?

John Gray said...

regardless of these events that have just come to light... I never liked the man.. I met him a few times in relation to my spinal injury days....
I found him rather irritating

Liz said...

I haven't really been following this but if as you say loads of people knew I'm appalled. I can't imagine Janet S-P feeling intimidated and afraid to speak out. Maybe she's changed over time.

Nick said...

John: He was pretty irritating. All the silly mannerisms and theatricality. He always had to be larger than life.

Liz: True, Janet Street Porter always seems very forthright and candid. Hard to see her holding back on such an important issue. But she insisted nobody would have listened to her.

Jenny Woolf said...

I wonder how the people in the hospitals could see him abusing helpless disabled children and be quiet about it.

I have occasionally tried to whistleblow myself (not about something so major, and not when facing someone as formidable and tough as Savile seems to have been) And it is awfully difficult because everyone you tell is sh*tscared.

No excuse, but a horrid insight into group psychology.

Nick said...

Jenny: I know, there's recent legislation supposedly protecting whistleblowers, but in practice it seems to have no effect at all. As you say, people are shit scared of sticking their neck out and ruining someone's reputation. And maybe losing their own job.

Dicky Carter said...

Good blog post. Seems rather obvious now that he could have been a pervert doesn't it? After all, what a strange man he was. I think you would have been very brave to have gone to your boss to tell them that SJS was a pervert when he was raising so much money for charity. It seems there are no heroes.

Nick said...

Dicky: I think it's only obvious now because everyone's been talking about it. I didn't find it at all obvious at the time. Indeed, all the charity work must have made it very hard to discredit him.