Some thoughts on being a survivor, and Jimmy Savile.
October 13, 2012
The most talked about topic of discussion in my work place for the last few weeks has been Jimmy Savile. In fact, the most talked about ‘current affairs’ topic I have talked about full stop has been Jimmy Savile. It is what everyone is talking about. Even sat waiting in the Dr’s surgery earlier for my flu jab, were two little ladies sat discussing it. Discussing the ‘story’. The accusations. The revelations of the alleged, but now as the Met seem to suggest, not so alleged abuse. And those revelations have been coming out, thick and fast and as the days go by they seem to increase. So I thought I would try and coherently type out a few thoughts. I have had some passionate online conversation in various places, including Twitter, and have heard many many views/opinions spoken. Some sensible ones, some sad ones, some shocking ones and some unbelievable ones. But opinions never the less.
As always, when I write, I will say I am not an expert. Because I am not. Nor am I anyone who many people take any notice of. I am just a little drop in a big ocean who is finding her way through life and who likes to write as a way to process and say what I am thinking. What I have to say on this issue may not be relevant to anyone/anything. In fact it is most likely not to be. That is fine.
As said above, I’m not an expert. And thats true. And I start with saying that, but I don’t always start with what I am. And what I am is a survivor. A survivor of childhood abuse, from people within my family, and people around me. I was seriously bullied at secondary school at the same time as trying to deal with being abused as a primary school aged child. As a teen I was also, on top of the other abuse as a younger child and bullying, physically (violently) abused by another member of family. So I am a survivor. I am also a survivor of a totally unrelated ‘assault’ as an adult, one day whilst walking down a street I often walked down, in daylight.
I am a survivor of ‘trying to die’ because roughly 5 years ago life was so hard and tough that I felt there was no other option or way out. I am a survivor of hard knocks. I am a survivor who is learning to live again, learning to laugh again, learning to love again. And learning to be loved. Its a long process and I am always and forever grateful to those people who are in my life/choose to stay in my life and continue the process with me. Its not an easy one sometimes.
I am learning to live in hope. I am also learning that I can be a voice. Someone who can speak out. Someone who can tweet, write, talk, share and hopefully raise an awareness of what ‘surviving’ is like, whether that is surviving abuse, or surviving mental health illness. And as I continue to learn to keep growing as a person, and keep living in hope, I am learning to use the voice that I have. To speak out, to be that person who can potentially make a difference to someone, anyone (this is why I am not so worried about blog ‘stats’ – because if one person feels they are not alone by my sharing on here, then it is worth it). I am learning to, want to and try to be someone who IS able to speak out, on behalf of those who are not. And those who are not able to are many. More than you can ever imagine. And I used to be one of them.
One of the main reasons I got to the point of being suicidal (aside from the abuse) was the fact that I was unable to talk. To speak to anyone. To let anyone know the pain I was in. The hurt. The anger. The shame. The guilt. How could I possibly sit in front of someone, who would potentially judge, potentially tell me not to be silly, potentially tell me to ‘not worry about it’, to ‘get over it’, to ‘forget about it’. How could I, as a child possibly tell the people around me what was being done to me. The very person who was hurting me was an ‘outstanding member of the community, with an exemplary military service record and so on …’.
So, it has been interesting, and quite hard at times to hear peoples views of the victims of Jimmy Savile. The Jimmy Savile who for years was ‘held in high esteem’ for his charity work, his brilliant television career and other things. (If you have no idea who I am actually on about, and the kind’s of work/volunteer/fundraising stuff he did, google him). The Met Police released a statement in the last few days calling him a predatory child abuser. That gives the impression that there is no doubt that he carried out these alleged crimes. I can not possibly write all the accusations that have been revealed. The fine details of the case. But if you want to know more, just google, or go to one of the UK’s newspaper sites. Or the BBC. Its all there. The whole story gets more and more shocking and sadder as the days go by.
There has been much conversation about the ‘insitutions’ that Jimmy Savile was involved with. For example his involvement and work for the BBC. The hospitals, and schools that he fundraised for/volunteered with on his days off. Much of the earlier conversations I was involved with/heard was a conversation of disbelief. ‘What? Jimmy Savile? No! Don’t be silly. Not Jimmy Savile. Not the children’s/teen’s programme presenter. Not the fundraiser. Not the charity worker. Don’t be silly. Anyway, even if he did do something ‘dubious’ they (the victims) probably asked for it anyway’.
When I first, very first heard this break, I was horrified. Shocked, in a non shocked way. Shocked, because as a child, I idolised Jimmy Savile. The weird guy who wore odd shell suits, on TV, fixing up the world for children. I idolised him, and what he did. I wanted to write to him. For him to come and ‘fix’ my world for me. To ‘fix’ my problems. To ‘fix’ anything I wanted. I wanted him to be my second Grandad. He was amazing. As I grew up, got older, I became aware of him being an eccentric old man. I would never have thought ‘Jimmy Savile’ and ‘child abuser’ in the same sentence. Never in a million years. Yet, when I heard the news, at the same time as being shocked, I was not shocked. Because it is all so plausible. All so real. All so credible. And whats more, people who abuse can be anyone. Absolutely anyone. Including the powerful, rich and famous. In fact, those people are able to better disguise what they are doing. Better able to keep it away from the public, from prying eyes, and much more able to ‘pay people off’ if anything ever was muttered that was not favourable to them.
So, I fully believe it. I fully believe the victims. Because they need believing. They need, for once, at last, someone to say ‘yes, we will stand with you’.
Two of the ‘views’ I have heard a lot of this week have been ‘well why didn’t they report it back then’. ‘Why didn’t they just say ‘no”.
Because as the case has continued on, it would appear that some of these people were braver than I ever was as a child. They did report it. And yet were still ignored. The power and money of Jimmy Savile proved more than anyone was able to contend with. So what does that say to the others? Those who were unable to (understandably) find that voice to speak out, what does that say to them? Nothing whatsoever encouraged those who were unable to initally speak out, then to do so.
As for the second point. Anyone who utters the words ‘why didn’t they just say no’ truly does not have any understanding of how abuse works. Its not so easy as ‘just saying no’. ‘No’ does not work. ‘No’ has no power when you are being raped.
I have been quite shocked at times to hear the vitriol towards the victims. Another question thrown out a lot has been ‘well why did they wait until he was dead’.
My response? – They didn’t. There are records, investigations, programmes made that were shelved. Police starting to look into things and then mysteriously stopping. They did not ‘just wait until he was dead’. Many of them tried to speak out before he was dead.
From what I have read and seen, and understand, Mark Williams Thomas who is a child protection expert, and private investigator was the guy who ‘heard a rumour’ soon after JS’s death, and began to look into it. He then made a documentary, after speaking to one person he knew of. That then led him to the many other woman. My understanding, of the moment, in the documentary where he said ‘he then was lead to other victims’ suggests that he dug. He approached people. He made it clear what he was doing. And this gave courage and power to those people who have been victims of JS.
Imagine you are sitting in your school class, and you get called out by your head teacher. There is someone well known in the town, lets say the Mayor for example, who just happens to be rich, famous, and very well known and popular. They take you in to a room, and rape you. Abuse you. They are twice the size of you, and although you do say no, you scream, you kick, you try to get away they are able to overpower you. Hold you down. And they tell you that if you ever utter a word to anyone, you and your family will be made to suffer. Killed. Or you will be ignored. Not believed, and your life will be hell. They tell you that you are a slut, you asked for it, and deserve it. They tell you that is what people will say and think if you breathe a word. Imagine being so traumatised by what has happened, and so scared of it happening again that you have to do what they say. You have no choice. You are so ashamed of yourself, you spend your evenings scrubbing your skin, trying to get the dirt out of your body, carving your body to release some of the feelings inside of you. Your life is never going to be the same again. You turn on the television, and on the news there you see your head teacher and the Mayor. The Mayor has just fundraised and donated millions of pounds for a new tech facility at the school. The crowds are there. Its amazing. Everyone is talking about how fantastic these two people are. But you, you know different. You know what they did to you. But who do you tell? What will they do to you if they find out? Who is going to believe you? You have no idea that they are doing this to several girls in your class. Because, they like you, fear these two big powerful men. They too, like you dare not speak a word, because, hey, who would believe a 14 year old teenager who has been in a little trouble, like any teenager.
So you don’t say anything. Neither do the other girls. No one does. They get away with it for years, while you some how have to work out how to live. You get a job, start a family, live life. But the memories never go away. And then one day, in the paper you find out the Mayor has died (the Head teacher did years back). And you hear a little rumour that someone is talking about … apparently they used to rape young people. And then you realise this thing is so much bigger than anything you ever realised. And as an adult, who now has a voice, who now has nothing to fear because they are dead are able to, for the first time in your life speak out.
You realise there are many more people out there like you. More victims. And you are able to find courage to say what happened to you. To back others up. To add to the chorus of people speaking out, raising awareness.
Imagine that is you.
Would you have acted any differently?
I dont know if you would have.
I dont know if I would have.
But I certainly don’t blame or think that the victims were wrong to not be able to speak out back then.
And we must remember those who did. And who were ignored.
Which is what I think this current investigation will start revealing more information on.
WHY were those people who did speak out ignored?
WHY were people who were in positions of authority back then, and then continued to be in high powered places not say anything.
WHY was this allowed to happen?
So many questions. So many thoughts. So many views and opinions and so so much more that I could write about. Discuss. Talk about. Mention.
But what I would like to end with, for now, as I may well come back to this again sometime, is please don’t forget the victims. In all of the talk, the chit chat, please don’t forget that out there are people, woman, and maybe men who are victims.
People who have had what can only be described as the worse possibly life changing abuse perpetrated against them.
Whether we think they ‘should have spoken out sooner’ or whether we accept that they were unable to for the various reasons outlined roughly above, and the many other reasons that I probably have not even touched upon, whether we think they are ‘out for the money (which incidentally is going to be extraordinarily hard and very doubtful for them to get) or whether we think they are very brave people who have found strength because of circumstance, because of the fact that they are no longer afraid, and because other people are speaking out they are able to voice their experiences, please remember they are the victims.
They are the victims who, at the time and most likely for many years after felt so alone, now have found out they are with others. Others are with them. They are not alone.
Let us stand and let them know that. Because being a survivor can be a very lonely place to be.
My friend, Concetta who is an amazing Mosaic artist has a wonderful website at glitteringshards.com and she also wrote a blog on this, which was very moving, tear inducing and beautiful. Please read it heres if you have the chance.
Please know, if you are a survivor, you are not alone. You are not guilty. It was not your fault.