Jimmy Savile’s Shame Is Our Shame
Most of us like to remember Sir Jimmy Savile, Britain’s first really famous DJ, as a multi-tasker: a miner, a wrestler, cyclist, dance hall manager, marathon man, member of Mensa, Top of the Pops presenter, arguably this country’s most successful charity fundraiser and, perhaps, most famously the fixer, the man who realised childhood dreams.
The man we do not like to remember is Sir Jimmy, the pervert.
Oh, come on, we all had our suspicions.
I interviewed him twice, in recent years. Twice I explained his reputation to the editors in question. Both men were quite clearly bowled over by the man’s so-called charm and willingness to befriend them.
Those two editors were in good company. Savile’s pals were many and powerful. They included the BBC, the Catholic Church, the NHS, the Royal Family and countless charities – most notably the wonderful Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire.
Never mind the shock of the Panorama revelations on Monday night, women are still coming forward to claim the DJ sexually abused them.
Now, suddenly, we are all surprised and horrified that a man we thought of as generous and caring is widely alleged to have abused children, many of them vulnerable and institutionalised.
For God’s sake, how many times do we have to be told that child molesters rarely come across as the monsters they actually are?
The fact that someone lusts after children is monstrous, all right, but, in the main, paedophiles look like ordinary men and women; occasionally extraordinary like Sir Jimmy Savile.
And that is where society has its biggest problem.
We may not like this fact but adults who are sexually attracted to children often present to the world as very nice people, real pillars of the community, churchgoers, priests, sons, lovers, brothers and husbands. Not monsters.
Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile, OBE, KCSG, was born in Leeds on October 31, 1926, the youngest of seven.
The family lived in the same house for 60 years then he moved to Roundhay Park, Leeds where he died last year.
He was remarkably fit for his years; completing 216 marathons. He loved to tell people that running had turned him into a sex symbol.
That jokey persona was his most precious weapon. Everyone fell for the loveable rogue on the surface.
His very respectability was what made him so difficult to catch. And, believe me, most paedophiles are not caught.
The BBC top brass, like Director General, George Entwistle, is agonising about how they should have known what Savile was doing; that they should have stopped it. Maybe so but, often sexual abuse takes place in the home and not even the mother knows what is going on.
Most of us want to protect children from abuse. It is therefore about time we learned as a nation to tackle the problem effectively.
Treatment is what paedophiles need. And I mean harsh lessons learned through confrontation with victims, through being forced to see how much children suffer at the hands of perverts.
We also need to learn that paedophiles lie about what they have done. Telling lies is their area of expertise.
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse depends for its continued survival on denial. And child molesters will go to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact they have abused children.
What was clear from the Panorama programme is that many people had suspicions – some even saw Sir Jimmy in action with young girls.
It is unforgivable when an authority with the clout of the BBC fails to take action after children have claimed – as adults now in the documentary – that they were abused.
By failing to act, those producers/colleagues have, effectively, condoned the abuse.
So many of the women interviewed said they wanted to report Savile but knew they would not be believed as children – because they were in institutions, because they came from broken, abusive homes.
Imagine that for a moment.
Imagine the devastation of a child who has plucked up the courage to “tell” and nobody does anything to help them. The child is disbelieved.
Yet statistics show that children rarely lie about sexual abuse.
Child molesters, on the other hand, lie about it all the time.
Article focus: Jimmy Savile scandal