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