The Jimmy Savile abuse story has mushroomed into daily revelations that become increasingly disturbing. Certainly, what seems now, significant evidence that he was abusing children is in itself abhorrent. What has followed has gone beyond this and becoming truly shocking.
Perhaps it is the fact that Savile appears to have abused children over a number of decades that should shock us. Or that he molested children in hospital where they were more vulnerable and in need of protection than normal. Maybe it was that it seems that there were professionals that knew of his behaviour and instead of protecting the children, looked the other way. All these issues are, of course, deeply troubling.
What, I would suggest, is perhaps even more troubling is that Jimmy Savile continued to be promoted by national organisations as a significant public figure to, not only advocate for children but also to protect them. Those of us of a certain age in the UK knew him as synonymous with the Clunk Click advertisements, which promoted seat belt wearing, yet, for instance, he also appeared in a handbook on child minding (see below). We cannot forget him as the presenter of his most famous program, Jim’ll Fix it, a program about making children’s dreams come true.
All this endorsement of Jimmy Savile as an individual who was safe, kind and thoughtful of children now comes with the knowledge that he was widely known, especially in media circles, to have been abusing children. This is perhaps the greatest disgrace. Not only did people’s inaction cause further suffering to children but that people, in effect, facilitated and sanctioned his abusive behaviour through peddling these untruths.
There has been much discussion over recent days about the fact that it was a very different time in the 1970s and child protection was perhaps not as clear in the publics mind as it is now. I will remind people that Jimmy Savile died on 29 October 2011, less than a year ago, with a list of honours – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Savile#Honours (and I doubt this is an exhaustive list). The fact that he died so recently, in a time where child protection has been a significant public debate on several occasions, and yet no one stepped forward, should shame those who knew and did nothing. In this, I certainly do not mean, or blame, the victims. Instead I turn to the professionals, media and people in positions of influence who, by their own admission knew of his abuse of children. Those people were content to let him die an exalted man.
Child protection can never be a matter for just professionals but instead must be a concern for the whole community. Those who see or know about the sexual abuse of children should have little doubt about its destructive outcome and how utterly wrong it is. Therefore there can be few excuses for allowing it to continue. There is ALWAYS something you can do.
I am sure we are only at the beginning of a worrying journey concerning this and there have been clues that maybe the light entertainment industry has more questions to answer. As someone, like many, who grew up with Savile on the BBC, this whole episode has left a bad taste and has significantly tainted my previously high regard for that organisation. Unfortunately, apologies and independent enquiries may do little to mend the damage done to many childhood memories and more importantly to the victims of Jimmy Savile who were led like lambs into his hands.
Yet again it appears we must trust in those people and organisations who looked the other way to the sexual abuse of children to investigate their own inaction and apathy. There seems little we can do. Or have we heard that before?