Jimmy Savile hid in plain sight, and got away with abusing mainly vulnerable or defenceless girls for decades. The victims themselves were either groomed by Savile never to speak out or did speak out but were not believed. Colleagues were either genuinely blind or ‘conditioned’ by Savile not to see clearly. Savile must have put as much effort into grooming and conditioning as he did into perpetrating the abusive acts, and no doubt his ‘duping delight’ hugely augmented his pleasure. You can see it on his face.
Like all victims of fraud, those who ‘should’ have realised what was happening are left feeling foolish, guilty and slightly ashamed. But Savile – like a Harold Shipman or a Bernie Madoff – was very good at what he did. That’s why he got away with it.
But there is another group – and I was tempted to believe that it includes some of those interviewed in the recent Panorama documentary ‘Jimmy Savile – What the BBC Knew’ – who did know (or strongly suspected) what was going on but who chose to remain silent. Why?
Suzanne Moore has written in today’s Guardian about ‘how supposedly “good guys” did nothing to stop it, and how girls are never really to be trusted. Or never actually a priority.’
One transparent reason appeared to be shared by several of those interviewed: I wouldn’t have been believed and so my credibility, reputation or career would have been at stake. Why would I risk that?
The common assumption seems to be that we’d all be entirely sympathetic to the way in which they answered the question ‘Why risk my job?’. In other words, we’ve been ‘conditioned’ not to question the assumption that a white middle-class male’s job may ultimately be of greater value than the body of a vulnerable young girl. Savile traded very successfully on that assumption.
Maybe we all need to ask ourselves whether we too easily let ourselves be ‘groomed’ into silencing our own voices in favour of a status quo that may not care to examine how easily other priorities took precedence over Savile’s victims.