Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Don’t forget there are others like Savile

The number of historic rape and sex assault cases being reported in Cumbria is rising. What’s known now as the Savile Factor is thought to be the reason.

Savile Factor: Jimmy Savile

That, of course, means public exposure of a man who monstrously abused hundreds of victims – young, old, alive and dead, apparently – has given many long-suffering sex assault victims the strength and confidence to speak out about the torment they’ve carried for a lifetime.

Cumbria isn’t alone in experiencing an increase in reported sexual attacks. A pattern is forming across the country and it’s one that indicates a long overdue shift in attitudes.

Secrets aren’t being kept the way they used to be. Promises fearfully to protect criminals from punishment are being broken. For many, the reclaiming of life has been a long time coming – but any relief arrives better late than never.

So has the abhorrent example of Jimmy Savile’s depravity served a good purpose? No. How could it?

He took his grotesque crimes to the grave – having been idolised at his celebrity funeral as a saint. For more than five decades he preyed on the vulnerable, sick, young and we now know, the old too.

It was never true that no one knew of his sick life choices. Plenty did. But those who knew him well kept his secrets. He counted police officers among his closest friends in his personal circle. Any in the media who suspected him of wrongdoing were prevented by law from publicly expressing their accusations – others were threatened.

He got away with it all. Not for a single day in his tormenting life, did he suffer a fraction of the punishment due to him. He received only adulation and praise, privilege and fame. His victims didn’t dare to speak of the real individual behind the expertly crafted mask of lies. Those who did weren’t believed.

No. Nothing good came of his life, death, nor even the shocking exposure which came too late. So what of this so-called Savile factor? Should we allow Britain’s most prolific sex abuser take posthumous credit for giving comfort to the long-term neglected?

Don’t be fooled. He deserves no saving grace. No thanks to Jimmy Savile, it has finally become impossible to ignore the depraved, predatory lives of abusers who – like the manipulating celebrity – once believed they were fireproof.They were. But they can no longer rely on that power.

But that’s because slowly, very slowly, nurses who laughed away accusations against abusers have learned not to. It has taken an age but police officers receiving reports of abuse no longer roll their eyes and shoo away children or frightened adults in their trauma. Social workers don’t dismiss reports of grooming for sex as the hysterical imaginings of the unbalanced.

Changing attitudes were in place before we knew of the extent of Jimmy Savile’s horrifying behaviour. Teflon tormentors saw their non-stick coating peeling away years before a fake national treasure escaped his just desserts scot-free.

What happened was we started to listen. We are listening still – more closely with each passing day. And we are increasingly determined to act on what we learn from those who once believed – rightly – they had no voice.

That’s more to do with society’s maturity than the example of a liar. It’s about compassion, our willingness to champion victims’ rights and an intolerance of sinister, life-limiting control.

But it has been a slow evolution and if the Savile Factor indicates anything at all, it should tell us we can’t afford to let down our guard.

The sad truth is, there’ll be others like him. And that’s what we need to remember. That’s the purpose of the Savile Factor.

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It's more positive than expected but could have been better

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