Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

At last Savile's victims being given a hearing

So then, Jimmy Savile. Sir Jimmy Savile OBE. Uncle Jim'll. Charity God. Primetime King. Nation's Sweetheart. Saint Jimmy Savile. Who'd have thought it?

Of course, of the numerous allegations augmenting on a daily basis, it's unlikely any will ever be proven.

We're hearing a steady flow of testimonies from women - a number of whom have now waived their anonymity - claiming they were "mauled and groped", "pinned up against a wall" and made to perform sex acts on Savile. Two women who went to Duncroft Approved School 'for intelligent, emotionally disturbed' girls in the 1970s, when Savile was a regular visitor, tell us they were repeatedly raped and left with sexually transmitted diseases when they were just 15.

But as the man is now dead, little can be done to test these accusations in court. For that reason, many have spoken out passionately against broadcasting these women's contentions.

When a trembling-voiced Katrina gave a harrowing account of herself, age 14, having Savile "on top of me, his tongue down my throat, his hands having a good feel around in my knickers" on the BBC on Wednesday she was pilloried by callers for "besmirching" the name of a generation's hero.

One said he was "incandescent" with rage that she had been allowed on air; what possible good could come of it? Let the great man, who did untold good for so many children through his charity fund-raising, rest in peace.

I say no. I say, let every one of the frightened, intimidated voices of these women's haunted little teenage selves be heard.

And then let us look at the kind of culture which might have conspired to allow this kind of abuse to quietly continue unchecked. Only that way are we likely to stop it happening again and again.

Johnny Beerling, the old Radio 1 controller, says he is staggered by the stories, that "there was never any hint of impropriety around the Radio 1 building".

I find his amazement hard to swallow. I myself had only been working in Radio 1, in that same building, a few weeks before I heard the first joke about what kind of thing Sir Jim'll liked to 'fix'. Two decades after Savile's heyday, the rumours were still going strong.

Savile's old colleague Paul Gambaccini is more honest. He says he's been waiting for these tales to come out for 30 years. He talks about how Savile played the tabloids "like a Stradivarius" to avoid being exposed, threatening that they'd be forever responsible for the drying up of huge charity funds if they ran their stories.

Why didn't Gambaccini himself come forward? Because Jimmy was 'the Guvnor'. "None of us were interested in going there."

As Esther Rantzen, founder of the excellent children's charity ChildLine, said this week, Jimmy Savile had an untouchable aura in the 1970s.

"We all blocked our ears to the gossip," she admitted.

This was one of the biggest celebrities of his era, and as the kind of guy who did a lot of work for charity and did like to talk about it, everyone knew what a wonderful philanthropist he was, too. He was a very powerful man, with a very high profile. A bit like a priest, except with a bigger flock. No one had the guts to take him on. After all, his victims were just little girls. They didn't have any power, they weren't on telly, they were no threat to anyone. Why speak up now? Because at last, someone's listening.

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