Jimmy Savile and the Spectacle of Shame

Peter Watt has written what is, in my view, the simplest, shortest and most worthwhile comment to date on the Savile scandal. You can read it here (link opens in new window). It has been bothering me that a media circus has been created out of a tragedy; that people who had no connection with Savile have been hounded as though they were responsible for his actions; and all the time, the underlying problem, the lack of respect adults have for children (many of them, anyway) and the quite frightening disregard for their safety has not been addressed. Will it ever be? All the regulations in the world cannot make up for the willingness or otherwise to listen to a scared child blurting out the horror of what they have experienced and then judging whether the child is telling the truth or not. (The presumption is in favour of the child, but let’s not forget that false accusations can be made and we have a duty to ensure that the innocent are not condemned.)

Every day brings fresh allegations. We are told that the scandal may touch a former Prime Minister. One would need to be very naive indeed to believe that politicians are exempt from any kind of wrongdoing, but the thought that first the Church, now the BBC and the political establishment, are to be paraded before us in a spectacle of shame provides no catharsis. Although the sickening cover-ups in the Savile case have helped me to understand better (though not to condone) the failure of bishops and other senior clergy to deal with clerical abuse in years past, I still think we are looking in the wrong direction. We are using the past to shield us from the present, looking at the child’s world with adult eyes.

That perhaps is the big problem. Thinking about events in Rochdale and Rotherham, I wonder whether we are somehow incapable of entering imaginatively into a world we are more and more distant from. ‘Except you change and become as little children,’ said the Lord, ‘you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ So often we hear those words and think in terms of conversion, religious change. Maybe we need to think about them in more purely human terms,  as a need for insight and attention to the least powerful, most vulnerable members of society. I don’t know, but it is something I urge you to join me in praying about.


10 thoughts on “Jimmy Savile and the Spectacle of Shame”

  1. ” For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    Edmund Burke

    I just pray for justice to be done.

  2. I was sexually abused as a child. I did report it. Sadly I found the process of the reporting as traumatic if not more traumatic than the abuse itself.
    I wanted comfort. Instead I was taken away from everything I knew including safety. I was asccused or ruining my abuser life. I was asked questions that made me feel as though I was constantly being tested.
    As a child I simply wanted love and understanding, and I think I still do

    • That is so sad. Do you think you were treated so badly because the adults in whom you confided didn’t want to admit the horror of what you’d been through, or because they couldn’t understand it in any way?

  3. My sadness about all of the victims who have suffered so much, in many cases either not being believed or just ignored, while for years they watched their abuser being lauded by the great and good and even being honoured with a Knighthood. I also believe that he was made a Knight of St Columba by the Pope.

    Off course, most of us lived in ignorance of the rumours and stories, even a police investigation and a dropped prosecution.

    I cannot seek to justify what Mr Saville is alleged to have done, but find it very difficult to understand the lack of moral courage or a conscience of those who were aware of these activities and chose not to speak out.

    It reminds me so much of the sentences which precede the Book of Common Prayer Confession: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. 1 John 1:8,9

    May God forgive all and may they all come to confession and be reconciled with God and those who have been harmed by genuine contrition and reparation.


  4. I was listening to someone on the radio news saying that more people have been given courage to report their ( unconnected) abuse from years ago by the way this is being handled and the interviewer commented quietly that they might not be telling the truth.
    It’s fear of that and the belief that children have that what happened was their fault that keeps them quiet until long into adulthood, I think.

  5. I feel sickened by the whole thing we are all God’s creatures but I struggle to see how Savile can be one.
    I struggle with this in Priests both of Catholic and Anglican persuasion. It is pure evil.

    Suffer the little children to come unto me.

    • Unless we accept that people are capable of evil, we end up not registering that salvation is a gift — one we all stand in need of, and which God gives freely, not because we have earned it by being ‘better’ than the next person but because he sees in us something that reflects his Son, however much sin may have distorted Christ’s image within us. ‘There but for the grace of God . . .’

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