Now the question being asked is “why didn’t someone do something earlier?” Why has it taken so long for the truth to come out? It’s becoming increasingly clear that people who worked in the BBC had their suspicions of Jimmy Savile. Some even went so far as to raise matters with their superiors, but nothing was done. Savile was such a high profile and highly influential celebrity, who did so much for charity, that his image seemed impregnable. He was knighted by the Pope and by the Queen.
Victims of sexual abuse often take a long time to pluck up the courage to open up about what happened to them. Feelings of fear, guilt and shame plague them for years. If they were molested when they were young, they may not even have understood what happened to them at the time. Only years later do they realise that they were abused. There is the fear that if they tell someone that they might not be believed. Then there’s the worry of what others might think of them. So it’s not surprising they open up after considerable time.
As the details of Savile’s predatory behaviour emerge, he appears to have been the worst kind of offender, using his celebrity status to maximum effect to prey on young vulnerable girls. But there were clues. In his interviews, especially the ones toward the end of his life, there were ominous hints about the dark side of his character. He wanted to be like King Solomon with a 1,000 wives. In another interview, recorded in a restaurant in Leeds, he talks about sharing a meal with a young girl he finds very attractive and can’t help lusting over. Although I can understand the general public being fooled, I find it difficult to believe that those who knew him on a personal level didn’t suspect anything.
My feeling is that people close to him did have serious fears, but chose to ignore them. They went along with the accepted consensus that he was a lovely man, who did a lot for charity, and was fond of children but nothing more than that. He was perhaps a little eccentric, but aren’t other celebrities too? They didn’t realise that this was a deception that Savile was spinning himself.
The BBC rightfully deserves criticism for not investigating allegations of abuse by Savile much earlier. However, as Fr Lucie-Smith in the Catholic Herald explains, there is all too familiar tendency in human beings to deny shocking offences when confronted with what they know to be wrong. Drawing parallels between the Savile case and recent instances of child abuse within the Catholic Church, he says “things that are too awful to think about do lead people to bury their heads in the sand.” He adds:
“When the German government in the mid-1930s turned against German citizens of Jewish extraction, no one, or hardly anyone, protested. They pretended Kristallnacht somehow had not happened. They went on to ignore Auschwitz. By then they had a massive stake in denial.”It often takes a lot of courage to go against the grain of accepted consensus and speak out against evil.
This leads me to my next point, which is the media coverage of this story. Isn’t it hypocritical that on their front pages, newspapers like The Sun are scolding the BBC for being a “cesspit” of immorality, yet the very same papers rely on highly sexualised content to sell their products? It was after all the media that created the celebrity figure of Jimmy Savile, colluded with him while he was alive, and it is now the media tearing up every shred of his reputation while he is dead. There is the smell of hypocrisy all around.
The British media often indulges in paroxysms of self-righteous rage. Yet it is better to realise that evil exists everywhere and in everyone, not just in aberrations like the late Jimmy Savile. Sadly the concept of sin has largely gone out of the window in our modern day society of moral relativism. If sin and evil are not fought closer to home early on – within everyone on of us – it is no wonder they can grow and have tragic consequences as in the case of Jimmy Savile.