Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Jimmy Savile did not “Groom the Nation”

Jimmy Savile was a "predatory, serial sex offender". This phrase, taken from the Giving Victims a Voice report written by the MPS and NSPCC into the investigation into the sexual abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile, is an important one and one that not enough media attention is being paid. Instead, the media is running with the quote, repeated by Metropolitan Police commander Peter Spindler on Friday, that Savile had "groomed the nation".

The Giving Victims a Voice report records sexual offences committed by Savile between 1965 to 2006. Approximately 600 people came forward with information for the investigation of which 450 relate to Savile and most were reports of sexual abuse. There have been 214 formal crimes recorded: 126 recorded indecent acts and 34 cases of rape or penetration offences; 73% of Savile's victims were under the age of 18 although victims ranged in age from eight -47. These are the facts as far as know. We will never know exactly how many people were sexually assaulted by Savile. It is safe to say this is only the part of the picture.

The vast majority of the British public did not know that Savile was a "predatory, serial sex offender" but equally people did know; people who were in positions of power who could have protected more victims from a sexual predator. People who chose to keep silent at the time and people who didn't think it was really a problem.

We know they knew because Savile was not allowed to be involved in Children in Need.

We know people knew because they have been telling us they knew. Paul Gambaccini, Savile's former BBC radio colleague, claimed that Savile's abuse of "vulnerable, institutionalised young people" was well known. Simon Hoggart also claims to have known. Journalist Lynn Barber questioned Savile about the rumours that he "like(d) young girls" for an interview in the Independent on Sunday in 1990. Savile himself acknowledged the rumours in a television documentary by Louis Theroux in April 2000. The Surrey Police interviewed Savile under caution in 2009 whilst investigating an indecent assault which occurred at Duncroft Approved School for Girls. The CPS chose not to prosecute. In 2008, Savile started legal proceedings against a newspaper which linked him to child abuse in the Jersey children's home Haut de la Garenne. Savile was also investigated by the States of Jersey Police in the 1970s.

Jimmy Savile was a "predatory, serial sex offender" but he did not "groom the nation". He was allowed to continue abusing because he was a 'celebrity'. Pretending that he "groomed the nation" allows those who knew to minimise and deflect their guilt. Those who knew and did nothing are guilty of helping Savile in sexually assaulting hundreds of children and adults. I say hundreds but we will never know how many.

The term "grooming the nation" only serves to silence victims. It serves those predatory, serial sex offenders who are still harming people. It makes Jimmy Savile a one-off case that will never be repeated.

But, Jimmy Savile isn't the only one. He will never be the only one.

Jimmy Savile didn't just abuse children in the 1960s and 1970s. That may be when most of the current reported cases occurred but to blame it on "different social attitudes and the workings of the criminal justice system" is to help deflect and minimise blame. Attitudes have not changed considerably, as the Giving Victims a Voice report claims. One only has to look at the child sex grooming cases in Rotherham or the case of Steven Pollock who was convicted of sex with a minor after raping an unconscious 13-year-old but who received no prison term or the case of footballer Ched Evans who was convicted of rape but whose supporters have driven his victim out of this country having labelled her a 'lying, gold-digging, whore.'

This is rape culture. It has not gotten better. We still live in a culture that assumes most women and children lie about rape. Savile is only one of the many prolific predatory sex offenders in the world. To pretend otherwise is to perpetuate rape culture.

"Grooming the Nation" is about making bystanders feel better about having done absolutely nothing to protect vulnerable children and adults from a serial sex offender.

It not only absolves bystanders of responsibility; it gives them a space to be feted and petted in the press by journalists unwilling to look too closely at their own responsibility for reinforcing rape culture.

Jimmy Savile was a predatory, serial sex offender because people stood by and did nothing to stop him; how many other men are there today harming children and other adults safe in the knowledge that those around know and will do nothing to stop them?

First published at Huffington Post UK in January

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2 thoughts on “Jimmy Savile did not “Groom the Nation”

  • sandra says:

    Hi Louise this is a superb piece, should be sent to every newspaper and the bbc

    Sandra x

    • Alison says:

      Agree Sandra. Those headlines and that narrative, that we were all duped by the persona of the benevolent Jimmy or somehow complicit enraged me at the time.