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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jimmy Savile - Power and Domination

If you follow stories regarding sexual abuse, you would be had pressed to have missed the one about Jimmy Savile. He is the former BBC music icon who is now thought of as one of the most significant serial sexual abuser of our time. It has been reported that his victims may number 300 or more. It is a staggering story but one where prestige, money and power are at the centre.

What struck me is the common thread in so many sexual abuse cases - those who saw that something was wrong failed to act. Because of this, there were more victims. The Guardian newspaper in the UK notes that:

Doctors and managers at Stoke Mandeville hospital were afraid to challenge Jimmy Savile over the free access he enjoyed to wards, out of fear that he would take his fundraising millions elsewhere, a former director of nursing has said, as fresh claims emerged of abuse at the hospital and elsewhere.

It is gaining a position of power that allows abusers to get away with what they do. It gives them access to victims; it creates room for them to groom victims and they do so with the immunity that comes when others fail to act. We saw that in the Jerry Sandusky case in the United States.

As in the Sandusky case, there were a few occasions when someone would tell, but they lacked the power to force action. Like Sandusky, those who could have acted with the information that they were given failed to do so. The Telegraph reported

Jimmy Savile's former director on Jim'll Fix It reveals he saw the presenter having sex with a 16-year-old girl in his dressing room and informed BBC officials who 'did nothing'.

The story adds

David Nicolson, 67, said he reported the incident to his bosses at the corporation in 1988 but was rebuffed and simply told: "That's Jimmy".
He told The Sun newspaper: “I was revolted by his behaviour. They just shrugged it off, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah — that’s the way it goes’.”
“Everyone knew what was going on. That includes senior BBC people — chiefs at the highest levels. 

These are illustrations that organizations become invested in the image, prestige and money that comes with characters such Jimmy Savile and Jerry Sandusky. They become wilfully blind to the reality of what is going on and fail to act ethically. Such organizations need to be held accountable, as has happened with Penn State University in the Sandusky case. Will the BBC also be held accountable? Let's keep a close eye.

Additional Note: reports that there are further charges in the Sandusky case against those who covered up his behaviour. Former Penn State University President Graham Spanier was charged related to a conspiracy of silence. The report notes:

“This was not a mistake by these men. It was not an oversight. It was not misjudgment on their part,” Ms. Kelly (Attorney General) said. “This was a conspiracy of silence by top officials, working to actively conceal the truth, with total disregard for the children who were Sandusky’s victims.”

Mr. Spanier is, of course, innocent until proven otherwise. This step does send a message that covering up sexual abuse by another brings its own accountability.

You may also find this story on the role of silence to be quite relevant.

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