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
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
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
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
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
In these paedophile-obsessed times it is no longer
professionally safe for a teacher to comfort a crying child with an arm around
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
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
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
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.