What We Can Learn From Jimmy Savile

The Police & the NSPCC yesterday revealed the results of their investigation into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile. The extent of it was even worse than feared: 450 complaints, 214 reported crimes – including 34 of rape – throughout his life over a period of 50 years: at the BBC, in schools, in hospitals & even a hospice; against victims as young as 8.

I suppose, for legal reasons, I should add to all this: “Allegedly”. He could only have been convicted while alive.

Awful! Awful that so many people, mostly children, were abused by one man.

Awful that the abuser was trusted, even loved; was seen as a friend of children, as a generous man who gave greatly of his time & money.

Awful that the abuse went on for so long & in so many places.

Awful that he was never formally investigated in his lifetime, let alone charged, let alone convicted. He got away with it.

But how?

Tragically he said it himself, to one of his victims: “I’m Mr Magic: you can’t say anything about this. No-one will believe you”.

He was right. His victims mostly didn’t say anything because they thought they wouldn’t be listened to. Those who did come forward were either ignored or not taken seriously.

I think there’s a lesson here, not just in relation to predatory perverts, but as a general rule for us all – especially those of us who are parents.

We must listen to our children.  We must give them the respect & attention they deserve, and need.

“Children are to be seen & not heard”. That just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s attitudes like that that can create the conditions for abuse & neglect to take place.

Children are not some sort of sub-species, nor ‘second-class citizens’. They’re people like us, little people, growing people. Human beings, just smaller & less developed.

Children need attention, especially our attention, their Mums & Dads, their carers. They need to know that we’re there for them when they need us to be. They need to know that we have time for them when they need it. They need to be able to tell us what they need.

I’m convinced that a child who is listened to & respected is a happy child.

We’ve tried to do that with our twins, & I like to think that they’re happy & doing OK. So far so good.

So when that little baby cries, go to him, see what’s wrong. See what he needs & provide it. We’re the only ones who can. Crying is the only way he can communicate. Change his nappy, feed him, help him sleep, play with him, cuddle him, give him medicine, take him to the Doctor – whatever he needs.

When that toddler plays up, go to her. Often it’s just a cry for attention. Play with her, talk to her, read with her. Give her boundaries;  let her know right & wrong by word & deed.

When that pre-schooler wants to show you his latest artistic masterpiece from Nursery, give it your attention. Praise him for his efforts. Even when his drawing of Mummy looks more like the creature from the Black Lagoon, extra mutanty, on a bad day. He needs your approval.

When she comes home from school, (and I’m going beyond my level of experience here), & complains about “what she said” listen to her, no matter how silly or trivial it seems. When she needs help with homework try to make time for it.

And so on.

It’s not easy. It can be hard, really hard. Being a devoted parent takes time, it can be tiring, emotionally draining, at times maddening. Also rewarding, joyful, fulfilling!

But it’s what they need, what they deserve, & what we can give them. Happy, balanced children are more likely to become happy, balanced adults –  & that’s good for all of us.


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