How did Jimmy Savile get away with it?

People have been asking, how did Jimmy Savile get away with rape and sexual abuse, hundreds of victims, for so long?

Rape culture.

This cartoon in the Daily Mail today shows how Savile did it.

His victims knew no one would believe them, they’d be laughed at and told they were liars.

How’s about that, then? They were right.

Rape Culture, or how Jimmy Savile got away with it.

The cartoon depicts two police officers outside the BBC, interviewing a homeless woman, with the clear implication that she is lying about having been raped by Jimmy Savile. “Mac on… The victims of Jimmy Savile filing compensation claims worth millions”.

(From the actual facts, which clearly didn’t worry “Mac” when he saw a chance to make a rape joke, there are so many victims, and so many institutions which were clearly negligent, that the total cost of all of the compensation claims will very likely be millions. It took the Daily Mail to leap from that to “So they’re lying in order to get the money”.)

The Mail has form for this:

The media plays a big role in the assertion that false accusations are as common (if not more) than rape and in implanting the belief that the majority of rape accusations are false. This appears to be a twist of logic around what being convicted of a crime means. It goes thus – the rape conviction rate is 6.5%. Therefore, the argument opines, every rape that is not convicted must be a false accusation. However, this ignores the fact that a false accusation of rape is also a crime.

Of course I am going to pick on the Daily Mail as they really are the worst offenders when it comes to deliberately misleading their readers over what a false accusation of rape is. When you search for ‘falsely accused of rape’ on their site, you are greeted with a list of headlines where the word rape is always presented in inverted commas (‘rape’; ‘sex attack’ ‘rape victim’), a punctuation device that implies disbelief. Stories where the man has been acquitted are presented as ‘cry rape’ stories and deemed to be false accusations – even when no-one has been found guilty of that crime (“Cry rape victim’s hell: Mr X was found not guilty of raping the woman last year after she claimed he had taken advantage of her while she was too drunk to consent to sex.”). When someone has been found guilty of false accusations then this story is likely to be printed, despite the fact that the 2,000 rapes that happen each week in the UK rarely make the headlines. This means that there is an over-representation of stories on a rare crime, and a real lack of representation of a far commoner crime.
Meanwhile, editorial from Melanie Phillips, Richard Littlejohn and Peter Hitchens repeat and perpetuate the myth that most claims of rape are false, stating that unless a rape is by a stranger, and accompanied with additional physical violence or weapon, then they are incidents where the woman regrets consensual sex the next day.

And to that we must now add the cartoonist “Mac”.

False reports of car theft are more common than false reports of rape.

Challenging the prevailing narrative is difficult, and the more outrageously wrong the narrative the more difficult it becomes to challenge. This may seem counterintuitive, but the problem is that a really false narrative is usually based on at least two if not more false premises, all of which have to be debunked at the same time in order to show how outrageously wrong the narrative is. Rape is a topic which has multiple false narratives, and even the construction of these false stories is difficult to talk about.

To challenge the prevailing narrative of rape in the tabloids requires a whole chorus of feminists debunking – something that’s surprisingly difficult to assemble.

Laurie Penny writes:

Sexism is so consistent a feature of the culture of media in Britain that it has become easy to overlook, like the whine of an alarm that has sounded for so long you’ve learned to ignore it. Until a few years ago, it was the modern “problem with no name”. However much it hurt to have to see slut-shaming, rape-apologism, victim-blaming and sexual objectification in the press every day over our cornflakes, women just had to ignore it, because challenging media misogyny in any way was next to impossible. It was just “the way things were”.

Simon Jenkins asks blandly:

It is hard to see what real benefit will come from any of this. The case is awash in malice, vilification, exaggeration and litigation. After today’s grilling, the BBC might well decide never again to let a child near a male studio presenter. Hospitals will be advised to recruit chaperones for males in children’s wards. MPs would apparently deplore anyone permitting children near adult strangers.

Or, you know. When a teenage girl says she’s been raped, even if she’s accusing a man with the stature of Jimmy Savile, believe her. Why is that so impossible, so unspeakable an objective?

Four charities who brought tabloid sexism into the Leveson enquiry: Eaves, End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, and Object.

Update, in relation to a conspiracy theory about the Freemasons brought up in the comments: Jimmy Savile was a Catholic. As William Oddie wrote in the Catholic Herald on 7th November 2011, he was born into a Catholic family, he went to a Catholic school, he was regular attender at Mass for his entire life:

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.

From EWTN Global Catholic Network: What is the Catholic Church’s official position on Freemasonry? Are Catholics free to become Freemasons? the official position is that Catholicism is regarded as incompatible with being a Mason:

The Church has imposed the penalty of excommunication on Catholics who become Freemasons. The penalty of excommunication for joining the Masonic Lodge was explicit in the 1917 code of canon law (canon 2335), and it is implicit in the 1983 code (canon 1374).

Because the revised code of canon law is not explicit on this point, some drew the mistaken conclusion that the Church’s prohibition of Freemasonry had been dropped. As a result of this confusion, shortly before the 1983 code was promulgated, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement indicating that the penalty was still in force. This statement was dated November 26, 1983 and may be found in 13/27 (Nov. 15, 1983), 450.

The Catholic Encyclopedia goes into this in some more detail, noting more than 17 papal pronouncements against Freemasonry since 1738. Not only was Jimmy Savile’s character (solitary and unsocial) antithetical to Freemasonry, it’s improbable that he would ever, as a practicing Catholic, have joined the Masons – or been accepted had he wished to join.

From Bullied by the Boss:

There are rumours that, as well as being a paedophile, Savile was both a con man and a bully. And it was the dangerous combination of con man and workplace bully that allowed him to operate an open paedophile ring whilst employed with the BBC. It enabled him to tow a caravan around the country with a mattress in the back and abuse vulnerable girls at leisure.

If ever there was a reason to address ego maniacs bullying others in the workplace – this is it.


Filed under In The Media, Women

20 responses to “How did Jimmy Savile get away with it?

  1. Rob

    The answer to your question is that he was a mason. Once you know that, everything else falls into place and makes sense. It’s just a re-run of the Frank Beck case.

    • Have to say I disagree on two – no, three – counts. One, because I’m generally sceptical about using the Masons as whipping boys. Two, because it ignores the clear real-life documented reason why Savile got away with it for so long; institutional sexism and rape culture. Three, which I have just thought of: I doubt if Savile was a Mason, because his character seems to have been secretive, isolated, and anti-social: he’s not the kind of person I can imagine joining any club.

      I don’t see that “the Masons” were to blame for Frank Beck, either.

      • Rob

        I’m not saying that all masons are evil. But they all swear a solemn oath to help their brother masons in their hour of need. When senior police officers, CPS lawyers, social service directors and judges involved are all masons, that says to me there is conspiracy to conceal. So many people “knew” about JS. How else could he have avoided prosecution for so long? Exactly the same applies to Frank Beck. Rumour in Leicester says there was a deal done: you leave ours alone, we’ll do the same for you. A lot of big names were kept out of the spotlight. A lot of case workers were threatened to secrecy.
        Secretive, isolated and anti-social, plus public image of charity work. Perfect description of both masons and JS!

    • So many people “knew” about JS. How else could he have avoided prosecution for so long?

      Rape culture. Sexism. Patriarchal and misogynistic dismissal of girls. Savile’s wealth enabled him to hire the best lawyers to win a “libel” case if the tabloids wrote about his proclivities. Those are the obvious and documented reasons how Jimmy Savile got away with it for so long, which your Masonic conspiracy theory would tend to obscure.

  2. Rob

    I think your argument holds true for tabloids and libel suits. I don’t think the factors you list are enough to explain police, BBC and social service inaction, though doubtless they contributed.

    • If you believe that the police, the BBC, and the social services are all totally free of rape culture, sexism, patriarchy, and misogynistic dismissal of girls, the kindest thing I can think of to say to you is that your belief is not borne out by any evidence.

  3. Rob

    No, I don’t believe that. I don’t think we’re fundamentally disagreeing here, except on mix and relative importance of the contributing factors.

    • I think we’re in really fundamental disagreement. Not over whether Savile was a Mason – I’d say that sans actual evidence, the fact that he was asocial and a devout Catholic says he probably wasn’t, but that’s not really important.

      We fundamentally disagree on two major points.

      One: you’re back-reasoning from Savile’s being able to get away with rape/sexual assault for decades to conclude, without evidence, that he was a Mason, because you believe that’s what Masons do. That’s very faulty reasoning, and not something I want to associate myself with.

      Two: you’re ignoring all the evidence that police and social services even today are apt to ignore the testimony of girls who have been raped/sexually assaulted, if the man who did it is a respectable member of the community: the evidence of other women at the BBC that girls and women could be sexually assaulted by men without any action being taken against the men who did it. That classic male “doesn’t matter what girls say, I know what the facts are” that you’re promoting is another kind of faulty reasoning, and something I’m in fundamental disagreement with you about.

      And lastly, any attempt by conspiracy-mongers to try to turn this into an anti-Mason thing will just add to the misogynistic/patriarchal efforts to undermine the one good thing that might come out of this: when a girl says she was raped by a man, we should believe her.

      • Rob

        There are many websites asserting that JS was a mason. I don’t have any evidence one way or the other. The evidence that Frank Beck was a mason is overwhelming. The parallels between the cases warrant investigation.
        How did JS become a “respectable member of the community”? He looked strange, behaved stranger, consorted with other weirdos. Maybe masonry and/or catholicism were his tools to achieve respectability?
        There is nothing that anyone can do about Savile now. What’s important is that we learn the lessons. I absolutely agree that abused girls and women need to be listened to. What’s also important is that ALL organisations who gave any succour to Savile, need a thorough overhaul, to ensure any repeat is impossible. The list would include the police, social services, catholic church, BBC. If Savile was a mason, would you want them left out?

    • There are many websites asserting that JS was a mason

      There are many websites asserting that the Moon landings were faked. They’re all wrong.

      I think I’ve stated clearly enough where our fundamental areas of disagreement lie, and I’m not really interested in going over them with you again.

  4. What is coming to light is that Savile boasted of this all over the place, mentioned it in his autobiography, on HIGNFY, in interviews, everywhere.

    He was hiding in plain sight. When he said “I like to rape young teenagers”, in a variety of different ways across several decades, everyone went ahahaha, that’s so funny. Because its a joke, it hilarious, take it seriously and you get accused of being po-faced with no sense of humour.

    Girls that did tell got disbelieved and in some cases punished for making up stories. When Savile said “I raped a young teenager”, it was hilarious. When a young teenager said “Savile raped me” it was disgusting.

    Rape and sexual abuse of children, even more than adult women is considered dreadful, so dreadful that it cant be allowed to happen, so it doesn’t happen – because everyone turns a blind eye to it and if no-one sees it didn’t happen. Its the old zen thing of does something make a sound if there is no-one around to hear it.

    Its all about power. Savile was powerful – very rich, very famous, very well-connected, his victims were powerless – young, hospitalised, ill, incarcerated and possibly even dead. No-one wanted to be the one to accuse Savile because they would be pitting their power against his, risking tabloid humilation, possibly a libel suit, and maybe even gaol, now that the UK state seems to have adopted a policy of gaoling rape victims to keep the sex-crime figures down.

  5. Stitch Mitchell

    Excellent comments here. I have to say I have to agree and I think there have been a lot of views expressed by many in the press based upon what they think is happening rather than based on any facts. Your critique of The Mail is especially relevant (Melanie Phillips is particularly odious). I also read with interest your discussion with Rob and, although I have no evidence either way, I also doubt that JS was a Mason. He didn’t need them to exert his influence. Many men will have been too cowardly to take a stand I think and the culture you speak of would have been enough for the ‘secrets’ to remain just that. I also find the links to the McCann’s very difficult to deal with and yet another conspiracy with people making claims that aren’t supported by any facts.

  6. Dan

    Would you like to point to any studies that prove that something called “rape culture” exists or is it simply one of those things where feminists believe in it because their mates all assert that it’s real?

    • Approved because (so far) Dan isn’t being abusive and appears to be human, if not a spambot. But, worth noting that Dan has so little confidence in his own views that he’s used an email address which is an obvious fake.

  7. Chris

    He didn’t get away with anything. He was innocent.

  8. How can anyone ‘get away with’ something they haven’t done ? Justice For Jimmy Savile – read my blog !

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