Wednesday, 16 January 2013

We all suffer from culture of distrust in the wake of Savile and his seedy kind

WHEN her uncle put his hand up her skirt, the child complained to her grandmother.  Who told her: “Don’t make a fuss, dear, it’s only Uncle Jimmy.” Or words to that devastating effect.
It is a great shame that Jimmy Savile managed to evade justice by dying before his decades-long career as a serial child-abuser came to light. Or was allowed to come to light by all those who must have known, or had some inkling.
Had his 200-plus crimes ever come to court, how many other defendants might there have been? Not, in the vast majority, to face similar charges to the wicked uncle himself, but as accessories before or after the sordid fact.
The posthumous “Savile case” has already cost the BBC a lot of soul-searching, public denunciation and its governor general.
So what should the consequences be for those hospitals and various charitable institutions that we now know provided Savile with more of his victims and more of the venues for them to be assaulted?
And which, in too many cases, assisted in the hushing-up of “Uncle Jimmy’s” predatory behaviour – either from fear of his undoubted influence or, like Grandma, fear of losing a share in the riches his outsize public persona generated.
Revelations of the full extent and nature of Savile’s sins have surely shocked the nation.
One acquaintance tried to tell me Savile’s guilt had been exaggerated and that those of his victims who have come forward since the TV documentary that opened the can of worms were “just trying to cash in”.
That, I’m sure, is a minority view – and a deeply, sickenly wrong one.
It seems to me far more likely that – as the police suggest – the full extent of Savile’s wrong-doing remains hidden because many more real victims have not come forward.
There could be a variety of reasons for them keeping quiet, from long-endured feelings of guilt and humiliation to the sense that ancient history hardly matters now. Some, no doubt, will have gone to their graves before him, their bitter secrets never told.
Amid the national hand-wringing over Savile and the culture in which he flourished, some comfort has been taken in the fact that times have changed.
They surely have – but not entirely for the better.
Yes, the routine objectifying and humiliation of women and children – both physically and verbally – is, thankfully, no longer socially acceptable as it once was.
But an important baby has been thrown out along with that bathwater.
In these paedophile-obsessed times it is no longer professionally safe for a teacher to comfort a crying child with an arm around the shoulder.
By that sad fact alone the child, the teacher and all of us are made poorer, and sadder.
It weakens the relationship of genuine care between young people and adults who might be as far from Savile-like proclivities as I am from flying unaided to the moon.
It’s part of the same altered culture that leaves teachers vulnerable to disrespect from parents as well as pupils.
And it’s not only teachers who suffer from this climate of seedy distrust. In effect, it’s all of us.
It’s an impoverishment of our whole sense of community. An assault upon the old value of “loving one’s neighbour as oneself”.
And while one cannot pin the whole change in the culture on Jimmy Savile, I think one can hold him – and those who for so many years let him get away with his nauseating behaviour – partly responsible.
If I believed in Hell, I would be tempted to hope he rots there forever.
I rather hope he believed in it himself.


ALL India was horrified, as well it might be, by the attack on December 16 that left a 23-year-old woman dead after being gang-raped on a moving bus.
It’s hard to put the extent of one’s revulsion into words.
But I am also made uneasy by the way it has put “rape in India” onto the news agenda of the world.
There is – tragically – too little newsprint and too little air-time to report in every paper and on every radio bulletin every rape that happens anywhere in the world. So why all the attention on India?
In the words of last Friday’s New York Times, the December murder “has become a symbol of all that is wrong with how India treats its women and girls”.
Fair enough. In India.
But the debate in New York – or here – should be about such issues everywhere, not reported as if the problem was unique to the sub-continent. Sadly, it isn’t.
One shock headline revealed that there are, apparently, 14 rapes in Mumbai every day. Which sounds a lot – 14 more than would be acceptable.
But according to British Crime Survey figures it is about a fifth of the rate rape in Britain, where 230 rapes a day are recorded (Britain’s population is about three and a half times that of Mumbai).
Of course, it may depend on exactly how you define rape. And, perhaps more pertinently, on how prepared its victims are to report it.
But even such reasonable doubts about the statistics show how complex this whole issue is. And that it shouldn’t be ghettoised as purely an Indian problem.

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