Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Jimmy Savile scandal

Most Americans will never have heard of Jimmy Savile.  He was a British institution, a silly comedian who for many years ran a program called "Top of the Pops," and who engaged in fund raising for nobel causes, such as children's cancer and handicapped children (a kind of British Jerry Lewis).  But, it has now been revealed in a Scotland Yard investigation that Jimmy Savile was the most prolific sexual predator and child abuser ever uncovered in British history. 
He worked as a porter on the gate of several hospitals before he began his show-biz career.  Because he became so famous in the 1960's-90s and was such a nationally known and universally liked performer, he was able to expand his abuse so that now over 600 complaints have been registered against him, of which ca. 250 have been confirmed.  There are cases of abuse against children as young as 8 and adults as old as their 40's, he preferred girls but also abused boys and young men and has been accused of 34 cases of rape.  How is it possible that this was going on from the mid-1950's to the last recorded case in 2006 and nothing was done about it, notwithstanding many individual complaints?  How is it that he was able to get away with such gross misconduct all over the UK and even in the studios of the BBC for 50 years?
The case came to the fore earlier this year when the BBC investigative journalism program Newsnight was rumored to be doing an expose of Jimmy Savile, but the program was blocked and not broadcast.  Then Jimmy Savile died and instead of an investigation into his abuse the BBC ran a commemorative program idolizing him.  Somehow the truth came out, people who had been abused by him years before started coming out of the woodwork and the story began to unravel.  Then there were hearings at the BBC as to why the Newsnight program was withheld and how he had been able to use BBC facilities to carry on his abuse.  As a result of these investigations, the heads of Newsnight and BBC programming were forced to resign.  Then the police began a criminal investigation.
It appears that there were two reasons why Jimmy Savile got away with it, first, the complainants were children and they were not believed; also, each complaint was handled separately, so the police never put two and two together to see an overall picture.  Savile travelled all over England, so different police departments did not know what was happening elsewhere, what incompetence.  Finally, Savile had such good contacts and was so admired that three potential actions against him were dropped.  He had free rein of the BBC and many hospitals.  He was even given keys to several hospitals and nursing homes and used their premises for rape and child abuse.  For this to have been going on for so long indicates that he must have had accomplices, but so far none have been named.  One suspects police connivance as well as BBC involvement in this long-term pattern of abuse.  Eventually I suppose the full story will come out, another example of British hypocrisy. 


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