The Jimmy Savile case seems to have been a ‘history-changing moment’, which has empowered thousands of people to come forward with their stories for the first time, experts say.
Specialists believe that the wealth of media coverage following the growing number of allegations of sexual acts reportedly carried out by the late television presenter, may have stimulated memories in many people. This has apparently allowed them to speak out for the first time and take the initial step in seeking professional help and support.
Fourteen police teams across the UK are involved with the case, with over 400 lines of inquiry reportedly currently being investigated.
Savile’s 40-year TV career — which included hosting programmes such as Jim’ll Fix It and Top of The Pops — made him a fixture in British pop culture. He has been the subject of hundreds of sexual behaviour allegations, which emerged following an ITV documentary Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, which aired a year after his passing in 2011 at the age of 84.
Evidence has since come to light of several cover-ups from the BBC and various police teams that had largely ignored suggestions of sexual behaviour by Savile and other well-known stars. “These sexual [acts] were happening at a time when [behaving that way] was very much a taboo subject,” says Dr. Elena Martellozzo, a senior lecturer in Criminology at Middlesex University who advises the Metropolitan Police in the Crime and Paedophile Units. “There was a lot of [shying away from it] back then, compounded by the [absence] of decent sex education in schools and families. However the media coverage over the last month has shown that [the people this happened to] have a voice and there are people willing to listen,” she tells The Positive.
Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the NAPAC told The Positive that since the Jimmy Savile case came on the news, they’ve seen an increase in calls to helplines.
“We usually average around 200 to 300 calls a week… since the story emerged, it’s been more than 1,000,” he said. “The majority of calls are from people who have been directly influenced by the case.” Thirty-five of those are from individuals directly accusing Savile. “Many of the calls we’ve received are first disclosures – we’ve had people ring up in their 60s or 70s talking about their experiences for the first time. A lot of them just wanted to get it off their chest.”
Saunders remains optimistic that the case has made a huge and positive impact on child challenge survivors and professionals alike.
“It’s a history-changing moment. I’ve just attended a meeting in New Scotland Yard which involved child abuse charities, major broadcasting organisations, police and other child protection professionals all sitting around the table discussing what to do next and how to make the world a safer place. This has [rarely] happened before: people are starting to speak out about just how [affecting] this [behaviour] is.”
Dr. Martellozzo agrees. “Current research indicates that around one in five children [experience similar things], so it is important that this is discussed in public, because it brings to light [far from] only those [affected] by Savile [also] those [affected] by others. It highlights that there is [far from anything] to be [shy] of.”
Tracey Storey of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who has dealt with child sexual act cases for over 20 years, described the scandal as “[challenging however] something that can be learnt from.” She said: “We have experienced an upsurge of calls from people who have been affected by the story. Those seeking legal advice [may be far from] necessarily looking for compensation [instead] to hold the [person responsible] to account. They want to be heard, to break the silence.”
Storey said the media coverage has been “overwhelming” for many, however it’s been the push survivors have needed to take the first step in speaking out and reporting to the police.
“If any positive has to come out of this [story], it’s that people are now listening. Professionals are revisiting child protection issues to make sure reports are taken seriously so future outcomes of other [cases] can be dealt with differently and quickly.”
In the wake of the story, previously allegations are being re-investigated. These include the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey thought to have links with Savile, and a children’s home in North West Wales allegedly involving a senior politician from a previous government.
“The media are reporting it, the police are investigating and organisations are learning from their [previous dealings] when they [had far from taken] sexual [deviation] claims seriously,” said Dr. Martellozzo. “It is our responsibility as a society to protect children and those who have [had these experiences].”
Saunders added: “There is definitely a silver lining in this case. Children will now be safer in the short and long term because we are finally starting to address the taboo. It’s been a long time coming.”
How does story such as the Jimmy Savile case bring more attention to helping others that have dealt with similar ordeals?