One only needs to glimpse at the national newspapers over the past few days to notice the massive amount of coverage Jimmy Savile has been given. The furore is being caused (cynically, some might say) by an ITV documentary that airs this week.
Having been a beloved TV presenter for forty years with the BBC, reactions to child sex abuse allegations and Mr Savile’s possible involvement in the Haut de la Garenne scandal in Jersey have varied greatly. One thing is clearly evident, and that is that Mr Savile, having died last year at the age of 84, is in no position to defend himself.
Having specialised in child abuse claims for the past 15 years, there is little in what has emerged from this that surprises me. It does, of course, seem a little unfair that all these allegations have come to light once Jimmy Savile has died, but this is by no means unusual. People who have not experienced abuse find it difficult to understand the sheer emotional courage required for an abuse victim to come forward, deal with feeling of shame and face up to the reality of what happened. I have had child abuse clients who have only managed to face these fears decades after abuse has occurred, having already had to deal with the deep destabilising effects for their whole adult lives.
Imagine how that courage must be doubled if your abuser is a high profile, prolific and respected public figure.
The outspoken supporter of children’s welfare and the founder of Child Line, Esther Rantzen, commented in a radio interview this week that Jimmy Savile was seemingly “beyond reproach” at the BBC. She said that she “hoped” that had she heard the rumours of abuse at the time she would have done something about it. These remarks, from someone so involved and experienced in the field, clearly demonstrate how hard it is to question the behaviour of a figure of authority. Further to be brave enough to make allegations; or even support allegations made by others. This all, of course, begs the question of how many people had suspicions about Mr Savile whilst he was alive.
Some of my clients take years to even realise that what happened to them was wrong and then years more to understand the dramatic effect it has had on their lives. By having the strength to face these fears and claim against the individuals and organisations responsible for child abuse, I can only hope that I have helped people come to terms with what has happened to them, get help and move on with the life they deserve.