Jane Devine: Silence over Savile does victims of abuse a disservice

FOR more than three weeks, every news outlet in the UK has been focusing daily on the Jimmy Savile story.

FOR more than three weeks, every news outlet in the UK has been focusing daily on the Jimmy Savile story.

Every aspect of the entertainer’s life and his reign of abuse has been examined, including how he managed to get away with so much for so long; why none of the people who plucked up the courage to report him were initially believed; the huge number of women coming forward with allegations of abuse; the charities changing their names to remove any association with Savile and the inquiries and investigations to be launched and carried out.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

The conclusion from this coverage seems to be that sexual abuse, assault and the objectification of young women and girls at the BBC was endemic: that Savile was not the only man who behaved like this.

That is shocking enough, but what is more disturbing is that some of the women who experienced this first-hand, or who were acutely aware of the culture, are now in powerful positions in the media, yet they seem unwilling to use their knowledge and position to expose the full extent of the abuse that went on.

It took until Savile was dead for women to come forward and say that he abused them and for them to be believed. That’s the hold he had on them, that’s how endemic and protective the culture was. And, while ordinary women, who were not believed initially, have managed to find the courage to come forward and report the vile things that happened to them, high-profile presenters, DJs and journalists are opting out.

Judy Finnegan, Sandy Toksvig, Janet Street Porter, Liz Kershaw and others have all come forward very quickly to agree that the sort of behaviour Savile is accused of went on all over the BBC. Some of them even had direct experience of it. Yet, they’re not prepared to go any further and name names. Toksvig talks of a famous man who groped her in a studio once, but she is clear that he “shall remain nameless”.

This inaction is not only allowing the perpetrators to get away with their crimes of the past, it could also allow them to carry on into the future. Many of those responsible for colluding in and creating this misogynistic culture may still be alive, or still in influential jobs in the BBC or elsewhere. But, crucially, they may still be abusing girls and young women.

If men other than Savile who are guilty of this behaviour are only referred to generally and not named, shamed and brought to account, nothing has changed. The reason Savile got away for it for so long is that he chose his victims well: young, vulnerable girls. The older, powerful women that some of them have become have a duty and the ability to end this and to stand up for those less able than themselves. If they maintain their silence, they are just as culpable as Savile and his pals.