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The Savile Row

October 27, 2012

You would have to be living in a hole in the middle of a forest with no human contact at all to not be aware of the current furore around allegations of sexual abuse of (at last count) 300 potential victims by Jimmy Savile, DJ, Charity Worker and now potentially to acquire the title Paedophile, subject to ongoing investigation.

He isn’t the first (Gary Glitter and Jonathan King spring to mind; and also have remarkable stylistic similarities in my mind, leading me to suspect they were moving in similar circles).  He’s not the first story I have heard of.  There may even be more victims who don’t define themselves in that way.

Picture this (potential trigger warning):
You are 14 years old.  Full of burgeoning hormones and confusing attractions.  You idolise the people you are fed through your magazines; footballers, musicians, actors and DJs.  You have the chance to actually MEET one of your idols and can barely contain your excitement.  You adore this person.  They seem to like you, upon meeting you.  It’s not some organised meeting, or if it is, you are alone with them.  They are treating you very nicely, complimenting you and making you feel good about yourself in all of your teenage angst.  They kiss you.  It is not a kiss such as one might receive from a parent or friend.  It is a sexual kiss.  You like it, it makes you feel good about yourself.  You may be confused about liking it, but after all, this is a person you admire and idolise.  It…  I’m ending this story here, but in so many cases, that was not the ending.

Some people may not perceive themselves as victims.  Some may actually feel flattered and find it emboldens their confidence.  This may lead to society not deeming them as victims, and in fact in the case of older women and underage male victims of abuse there is often a perception that he should be admired for having ‘scored’ with an older woman, or that he should feel lucky to have gained such valuable sexual experience.  That ties into the heteronormative dual standard for men and women with regard to sexuality and sexual behaviours.

However, the adult is aware that you are a teenager.  The adult is aware that you are underage.  The adult is aware that you are full of admiration, full of teenage desire, and that you are vulnerable.  The adult is abusing the situation and is abusing you.  I cannot state this strongly enough, and feel compelled to capitalise the words: HOWEVER THE VICTIM REACTS TO THE SITUATION, THIS IS CHILD ABUSE.

This is entirely a part of our rape culture, which is not a new idea or reality but appears to be worsening with the increased sexualisation of children and of the burgeoning raunch culture in adulthood.  Sexual adulthood seems to be conflated with burgeoning realisation of sexuality in adolescence; there is no comprehensive sex education to empower youth with knowledge of themselves, their bodies, their rights and their responsibilities.  Victim-blaming is still rife.  Even in discussions about the Savile case I have read comments that people are attention-seeking, making it up to jump on the bandwagon, or their testimonies are doubted simply because of passage of time or judgement about themselves and their conduct since the alleged abuse.

It seems the Savile row will go on, and the fall-out will be huge.  One positive we might eventually be able to take is the opening up of the discussion about child abuse and the abuse of power by those in the public eye.  My hope is that responsibility will firmly, finally, be put on the abuser and not the abused.  In my real life, I work for a firm which deals in part with child abuse victims.  I have seen the reality of not being believed, of systematic covert acceptance and tolerance of abusers, of the long-term damage caused, of how prevalent this inherent sense of entitlement and victim-blaming is.

There is a reason why the victim should and does have no say in prosecution of crimes; the law has to stay impartial in order for it to be equitably applied.  However, we have a culture which reacts contrary to this ideal when it comes to all forms of sex crimes.  Prejudice specifically affects such crimes.  The abhorrence in our initial reactions, the lack of understanding of what defines sex crime (shown especially by the Republican and/or Tea party in the run up to the current US elections – check this out for some potentially triggering and horrifying statistics).

I hope, in a way, the Savile row goes on.  I hope our society learns and puts in practice solutions we can develop from it.  For if there is one thing I of which I am very sure, it is that Savile was empowered and enabled to carry on the abuse he perpetuated for many, many years both through the ignorance and the knowledge of those around him.  Allegedly.

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From → Ideology

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