I have various things to say about the Jimmy Saville controversy.
You always end up thinking twice about what you say or write on such matters but perhaps that is what we really, to coin a phrase, need to fix. Not speaking out can only play into the hands of the perpetrators.
Firstly, child abuse is wrong. It is not about what degree of child abuse or who does it. It is fundamentally evil using power against the vulnerable. Don’t run away thinking it is a minority sport either. Let’s not get side-tracked into just considering Jimmy Saville and Co. Let’s look at rooting out child abuse altogether.
It is not OK to ever describe abuse as mild. As an adult, I was attacked and someone I knew said “Oh, I hear you were nearly attacked last night” clearly meaning that as I was not raped and escaped without obvious injury, it did not really count. So for me, if Jimmy Saville or anyone else rubs a child inappropriately or puts his tongue in its mouth, that is wrong. No ifs, no buts.
I remember feeling “uncomfortable” with a older man as a child in a community venue. When I said so, my parents told me “Don’t be daft, it’s only Fred”. This sort of attitude has to stop or children will go on being maltreated. If a child is not happy and says so, can we at least listen to them?
I am lucky to have never experienced child abuse but I have friends and family members who have. The consequences of it go on down the generations and impact on the victim and to an extent anyone who comes into contact with them and cares about them now or in the future.
A ripple effect of shame, fear, guilt and anger.
This is what I think I have learned.
That the very well-educated girl will say it was probably her fault.
People struggle to speak out if the perpetraor is a stepdad, a family friend or someone in a position of authority.
Victims try and protect those they love rather than looking out for their own interests.
Mothers sometimes take the side of the abusive stepdad over their own children. Although this may say something about their “victim” status, it is still not justifiable in my view.
When victims do come forward, they are not always believed which if you think about it is yet another kick in the teeth.
Some victims won’t be able to fully remember what happened as the mind can block off traumatic incidents. That does not mean they were not harmed but sadly, it does not hold up very well in police investigations or court appearances either.
Even when the abuse is discovered, family members all too often run away from allowing space for the victim to discuss what happened to them. It is understandable but it is not good enough. That door should always remain open.
Some family members will act as though the victim has brought shame on the family’s reputation by bringing child abuse to its door. Shame on them!
Victims may well carry out self-harm possibly cutting themselves, attempting suicide or acting in self-sabotaging ways.
I am heartily sick of hearing the media covering this story using words and phrases like “allegedly”, “testimony is not evidence” and so on. I know their lawyers are advising them what to say but let us have a society where we are more bothered about the welfare of children than the potential financial cost to a huge media company.
How must it feel for the victims coming forward quoting strikingly similar stories and still having their veracity questioned? How would you feel?
It is time to listen, time to speak out and time to show we care.
Are we really bothered and if we are, what are we going to do to fix things?