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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Jimmy Savile and Child Abuse

I've just watched the BBC's Panorama. It investigated the decision by the editor of Newsnight to shelve an investigation into sexual abuse allegations surrounding the late Jimmy Savile. It seems the decision to pull the report was made to protect Savile's name ahead of several tribute shows the BBC had planned to broadcast.

Over the years numerous BBC people had heard the rumours that Savile was a child molester, and some had witnessed Savile's inappropriate behaviour towards children, but few thought to say anything and Savile's abuse of children continued for decades.

The amount of distress Savile caused can never be calculated. The victims are to be measured by the hundred. They included children in hospital, patients in Broadmoor, children in care, and BBC visitors, invited by Savile to join the audience of Clunk ClickTop of the Pops or Jim'll Fix It.

Good God! The man was a legend, part of my childhood, Mr BBC, a children's TV presenter, and all the time he was using his celebrity, wealth, influence, charity work and contacts to groom and abuse children, silence his victims, and avoid detection and prosecution. Watching Savile now I see what commentators mean when they say he was 'hiding out in the open'. How did he get away with it? 

We now live in a society where safeguarding children is a high priority, yet still there are cases, like Rochdale, where social services fail to intervene and where a blind eye is turned to the sexual abuse of children. But in the 1970s and '80s, when Savile was at the height of his fame and at the depth of his depravity, our society was not at all sensitive to the problem of childhood sexual abuse. Repeatedly interviewees on Panorama said that whilst they disapproved of his behaviour it never occurred to them to report Savile for molesting teenage girls. 

I imagine that many rock stars and celebrities in the 1970s saw the sexual exploitation of young fans as an entitlement rather than a crime. Society as a whole gave no thought to what Savile was doing, preferring to see his heavily sexualised behaviour on TV as playful and harmless. That's why it's shocking to watch: because we now see what was always there but what we did not see before.

And now the inquiries and investigations begin, and as former Conservative Cabinet Minister, David Mellor said on the radio tonight, 'blood will have blood'. Let us see how this unfolds.

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