This is rape culture

Louis Theroux asked Jimmy Saville in 2000 [full transcript here]

“So why do you say in interviews that you hate children, when I’ve seen you with kids, and you clearly enjoy their company and you have a good rapport with them?”

Jimmy Savile: “Wrong.” (Takes cigar out of mouth – yes, he’s smoking in an enclosed car, windows shut) “Obviously I don’t hate ’em. That’s number one.”

“Yes. So why would you say that, then?”

“Because we live in a very funny world. And it’s easier for me, as a single man, to say “I don’t like children” because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt.”

“You’re basically saying that tabloids go – pursue this whole ‘is he isn’t he a paedophile’ line.”

Jimmy Savile: “Yes. How do they know if I am or not? How does anyone know if I am, or not? I know I’m not.” *pause* “Ho, ho, ho.”

From another perspective, nearly thirty years before that conversation with Theroux, a BBC producer named Wilfred De’Ath was doing Teen Scene in 1964 and wanted Savile, presenter of Top of the Pops, to appear on it. De’Ath says:

“He had a shocking reputation for young woman – it was generally known he was into young girls”.

He turned up at the restaurant where they had agreed to meet and sitting with Jimmy Savile was a very young girl “I would have guessed she was twelve if you’d asked me to guess, it could be she was thirteen or fourteen” He asked Savile where he picked her up, and Savile said “Top of the Pops” (it was a Friday: TOTP went out on Thursday nights). De’Ath asked “Is that your happy hunting ground?” and Saville said “Yes.”

“That was the extent of my conversation with him about her. Because I felt it rather demeaning to be talking to him in front of a little girl like that.” The next day he phoned Savile at his hotel and Savile said he was in bed with the girl and made the girl say “Hello, Mr Producer” to De’Ath.

De’Ath did not call the police: did not make any efforts whatsoever to report Saville for rape. In the interview, he says he felt “demeaned” by being made to talk with a little girl as the price of getting Jimmy Savile on to his show. He’s asked by the interviewer “Did you tell anyone?” and Wilfred De’Ath says “Everybody knew” – De’Ath had heard over and over again that Savile liked young girls, this just happened to be the first time he had evidence.

But he didn’t go to the police. It doesn’t appear (from the interview) that Savile had to do or say anything to persuade De’Ath not to, nor that De’Ath now thinks he did anything wrong by not doing so.

Sometime in 1974 or 1975 a primary school teacher asked her class to write letters “to a man who wants to make your dreams come true”. Rather confused as to what was being asked of me, I wrote that I wanted to go to Narnia. It only occurred to me years later that this must have been the initial harvesting of letters from children for Jim’ll Fix It. (Had the BBC been producing this series thirteen years earlier, I suppose I might have got a trip to the set: apparently the BBC often used Jim’ll Fix It to promote other shows.)

We were fans of the show, but – and I don’t think this is Monday morning hindsight – I thought even when I was first watching it, one of the disadvantages of winning a “Fix It” would be the part when you were called up from the audience to stand next to Jimmy Savile, with his jovial insistance of arm around shoulder, pat-pat-pat, exactly like the worst kind of avuncular adult who just wouldn’t leave go.

In the obituary of a certain children’s writer in the Independent in 2010, Nicholas Tucker acknowledges:

[William Mayne] was more relaxed with children. Keeping open house and laying on a stream of entertainments, he also offered rides in his 1928 British racing-green Bentley. Helping out with computer lessons at his nearest primary school, devising educational games and addressed by all as “William”, he sometimes brought along his toy bear, Beowulf.

But this benign picture was not all it seemed. Accusations of indecent assault made in 1973 and 1999 finally came to a head in 2004, when he was taken to court by a farmer’s wife in her fifties whom he had befriended when she was eight. She described being entranced by Mayne, but there were times when her erstwhile friend, normally so kind, witty and affectionate, would force himself on her. This abuse lasted for six years; five other witnesses came forward with similar accounts. Evidence of his criminal behaviour for 15 years from 1960 onwards was overwhelming, leading to a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Hugo Rifkind quotes from Jimmy Savile’s autobiography, published in 1974:

“‘Ah,’ says I all serious, ‘if she comes in I’ll bring her back tomorrow but I’ll keep her all night first as my reward’.” He then writes that the girl did go into the club and “agreed that I hand her over if she could stay at the dance, [and] come home with me”. He wrote that he did then hand her over to the “lady of the law…[who] was dissuaded from bringing charges against me by her colleagues, for it was well known that were I to go I would probably take half the station with me”.

Rifkind asks, apparently genuinely bewildered:

…these are words he wrote in a book, which were read by a publisher, and presumably by lawyers, and by reviewers, and by readers. One of his alleged victims even claims he gave her a copy of it, after abusing her, with the inscription “No Escape!”.

What can these words possibly mean, except for what they seem to mean? How can nobody have noticed?

Right now, many are presumably wondering how his behaviour can have been concealed for so long. But it wasn’t concealed. It was right out there, in plain view, and nobody wanted to see. I’m not sure what the lesson of all this is, but if there is one, it’s horribly bleak.

William Mayne assaulted respectable girls. Jimmy Savile assaulted disreputable girls. So William Mayne was – eventually – arrested, tried, convicted, and jailed: he never had a novel published again, and his backlist was allowed to wither away. The BBC didn’t even begin to investigate the allegations against Jimmy Savile until he died.

The incident Rifkind cites happened in the 1950s when Savile was DJ’ing in the 1950s when a police officer showed him a photograph of “an attractive girl who had run away from a remand home”.

The accusers from the aborted Newsnight film were all from an approved schoolDuncroft Approved School for Girls.

One of the five, Fiona, tells the programme she was abused at BBC Television Centre in the 1970s when she had gone with other girls from Duncroft approved school near Staines, Surrey, to watch the radio DJ film a piece linked to the Clunk Click road safety campaign.

In a pre-recorded interview, Fiona (whose surname is not supplied) said that when she was at the BBC “we knew what was expected of us, we had to pay. He had an alcove in his dressing room that had a curtain over it and he would take you behind the curtain”.

She added: “He always touched my breasts but at the same time he would be touching my breasts he’d always have his hands down my knickers. There were no staff around in the room, just the girls in there and one or two other people so I suppose the privacy we got was from the curtain in the alcove but, I have no doubt that he went and told everybody else what he did afterwards”.

Another 14 year old girl from the approved school:

“He asked me my name and where I lived. I thought he was really interested at the time, he made me feel really nice, really special. He then went down the road, stopped the car and kept the machine running and said, ‘Are you a virgin?’

“I said, ‘I’m not telling you that’, then he put his hands down my knickers and started messing about with me and said ‘I can tell you are a virgin’. He got my hand and put it back down his trousers and he took me back [to the school]. I went back to Duncroft crying.”

Wells, whose maiden name is Allen and who is now a chef, said she reported the incident to the school headteacher, who allegedly replied: “Don’t be stupid. Don’t say things like that.”

Peter Rippon, Newsnight’s editor, intervened to prevent the 10-minute film being broadcast, setting two preconditions: to establish that there had been a police investigation (yes: Jimmy Savile had been interviewed under caution in 2007) and then to find out why the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to charge Savile. Some said they thought it was because Jimmy Saville was “too old” in 2007 (Saville was 81: William Mayne was 76 when he was convicted in 2004) but CPS went on the record only to say that the reason they didn’t prosecute Savile wasn’t lack of evidence.

Harriet J wrote on Fugitivus last December, when Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore both came out in support of Julian Assange:

Olbermann and Moore are personally invested in keeping rape accusers silent, and making sure others do not believe in rape accusations, because they are personally invested in men they know to be potential rapists. They are invested in those men more than they are invested in justice for rape victims. That sounds patently obvious, but I’m saying this because it’s more important than Julian Assange, Keith Olbermann, or Michael Moore; this is a survival tip. Anybody who slanders rape victims based on lies and damned lies is doing so because there is a rapist or potential rapist they are protecting. The rapist or potential rapist may be them. It may be somebody they know whom they suspect of such a thing. It may be that they never knew the rapist, but they knew his victim, and they do not want to believe her because she, I don’t know, worked for the CIA? Is a Republican? A feminist? Loud? Annoying? Needs support and dignity they are not equipped to give?

There is a strategy in every rape case from the defenders of the man accused, to make the rape not have happened by attacking the women who say that man raped them. We see this happening in the Assange case. The reason the defenders use this strategy, in and out of court, is because it works. It worked in the Rochdale case, where teenage girls who were being sexually abused by older men were dismissed as bad witnesses because they were disreputable young woman whose reputations wouldn’t make good evidence in court.

This is a strategy that works because of rape culture – the culture that believes that some women (the cheap, irresponsible, sluttily-dressed sort, who get drunk, who have tattoos) can’t be raped. Saying that kind of woman has been raped “cheapens” the definition of rape (Harriet J of Fugitivus again)

The only way rape and abuse can be cheapened is if we cheapen the victims. They aren’t cheapened by expanding the definition of victim. If rape and abuse are horrible and wrong, then more victims just equals more horrible and more wrong. But we can cheapen rape and abuse by limiting the definition of victims we give a shit about.

There does not exist the possibility of cheapening rape and abuse if rape and abuse are considered to be inherently horrible and wrong. No matter how few or how many victims, it is inherently horrible and wrong for each of them. There exists the possibility of becoming desensitized to the horribleness and wrongness when the number of victims reaches critical mass (thought experiment: try to imagine the experience of all the women and men being raped in the Congo and see if your brain doesn’t just burn out before you reach the point of major and crippling depression), but there does not exist the possibility of rape and abuse no longer being horrible and wrong based on who is victimized (and/or who is perpetrating).

But if rape and abuse are horrible and wrong only when committed upon certain people,

Then there exists the possibility of cheapening rape and abuse by trying to include people for whom rape and abuse are deserved and right.

That logic train can only exist if we live in a society that believes in some cases, for some people, abuse and rape are deserved and right. Only if some people deserve to be treated horribly and wrongly can we have a situation where something that is horrible and wrong can be cheapened by the amount and type of victims experiencing it.

In other news, people who put up a total of £140,000 of bail sureties for Julian Assange so that he could remain under house arrest rather than in jail, are still arguing with the courts that they shouldn’t have to pay up because Assange skipped bail into the Ecuador embassy and no one expected him to do that.

Exposed on ITV Player til 1st November.

See also:

William Oddie asked in the Catholic Herald in November 2011:

But why not mention that an important part of his life was attending daily Mass? There’s a deep dedication in the life of a man who gives away 90 per cent of everything he earns and so tirelessly does all the other things he did. You’d think that an obituarist would want to ask a simple question: where did all that come from? It’s almost as though they couldn’t bear to accept that the answer was his Catholicism: even that Catholicism itself could ever be the source of actual human goodness.

Update, 7th October

The Metropolitan Police – not the most reliable body for dealing with rape cases – is to decide whether to launch a full investigation into “the Savile allegations”: working closely with the BBC investigations unit which is now dealing with “claims relating to abuse alleged to have taken place on BBC premises in London“:

Several woman have broken their silence about the claims for the first time this week, prompted by the ITV documentary Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, which aired on Wednesday evening.

Mark Williams-Thomas, the former Surrey police child protection detective behind the ITV documentary, said a “significant number” of women had come forward to him with fresh allegations of abuse in the past 72 hours, since plans to air the ITV film were first made public. He added that the women had come forward with significant information that will be passed to police.

Woman have recounted harrowing details of how they were allegedly abused by the TV star when they were as young as 14. Former pupils of the Duncroft Approved School for girls with behavioural problems have said that they were assaulted by Savile, as have several women who went to his popular BBC shows, including Jim’ll Fix It and Top of the Pops.

Scotland Yard said

“Our priority will be to ensure a proportionate and consistent policing response putting the victims at the heart of our inquiries. It is too early to say how many individual allegations there are, and we will be making contact with all those concerned in due course.”

Janet Street-Porter pointed out on Question Time that even if she had tried to raise what was being said about Jimmy Savile with senior BBC executives nothing would have happened:

“A lot of people in the BBC knew what was going on,” she said.

“I heard the rumours but I was working in an environment that was totally male.

“Do you really think that if I said to someone at the BBC higher up than me this was going on – they wouldn’t gave taken any notice of me whatsoever.”

We owe justice to Savile’s victims and to those who collaborated with him – covering up after him, ignoring direct evidence of statutory rape. And it would be sound to acknowledge publicly that one reason people who knew didn’t come forward in the 1960s and 1970s was that back then the social consensus was that statutory rape wasn’t “really” rape. Even if she was far underage and no matter how much older than her he was.

And we need to make the link between the girls Savile raped and molested who did complain, and who were dismissed and ignored, and what happens when girls like that complain today.

Update, 10th October

Last night, under cover of darkness, the black marble gravestone that marked Jimmy Savile’s grave in Scarborough cemetary was taken away in three pieces, to have the inscription erased and to go to landfill.

After incidents of other memorials being vandalised, Savile’s family decided to have the headstone removed because

“the impact the stone remaining there could have on the dignity and sanctity of the cemetery”.

Savile’s coffin now lies in an unmarked grave.

Update, 4th January 2013

I added these links just now to remind anyone reading through this, who’s determined to exculpate Savile for each rape or sexual assault by blaming his victim, that we believe her. Owen Jones was arguing the wrong cause but was right to say Sexual violence is not a cultural phenomenon in India – it is endemic everywhere .


Filed under Women

8 responses to “This is rape culture

  1. Jane Harvey

    Regarding William Mayne, when a manager from his publisher, Oxford University Press, witnessed his sexually abusing young girls, so shocked was she that OUP immediately ended their contract with him. But OUP did not report him to the police or go to Social Services; they did nothing to protect the girls who were aged 6 – 12. Like Savile, Mayne worked for the BBC for many years and had a similar reputation by then; the Penguin chilrden’s club that he used to visit attempted to separate him from sitting next to young girls (they did not stop him from attending the club, however). Respectability was not accorded to these girls as children; it was only when they disclosed in their fifties to the police that they were listened to; earlier disclosures in childhood to teachers etc had been ignored.

  2. James Murray

    Wilfred De’Ath is hardly a credible witness. The man has served not one but two sentences in prison for fraud and deception.

  3. The women from that approved school are lying.

    Why is there no mention of Fiona’s claim of Jimmy Savile demanding sexual favors in return for his outings in the car or trips to the BBC in Surrey polices statement about their 2007 to 2009 investigation (when they specifically stated the accusations they got at that time) since the information she gave newsnight and the FAKE letter she handed to the Daily Mail are obvious indications she is claiming or was claiming to be a part of that…?


  4. Hmm, that’s something he has in common with Karin Ward then, she also spent time in jail for deception and Fiona forged a letter which she handed into the Daily Mail in October 2012, following the ITV Exposure ‘documentary’, claiming it had been sent to her by Surrey police in 2007 (about 3 or 4 years before Newsnight or the BBC got involved with the story or had even heard about the 2007 to 2009 Surrey police investigation btw)…

  5. There is no evidence that Fiona forged the letter. When They were interviewed how do you know it was the same girls? How come so many Duncroft Appoved school girls came forward, yOu think they all lied?

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