Published on 1 Jul 2014

How Savile and Harris must have haunted their victims

How is it that so many celebrities turned out to be child molesters? That’s the simple question a host of people have put to me during the Jimmy Savile/Rolf Harris season of discovery.

I have disclosed before in Snowblog how I was abused at six years old by a man who was very far from being a celebrity. He was a domestic servant in the school where my father taught.

I have only found myself recalling what happened because the whole subject of child abuse has come back centre stage – thanks to the celebrities involved. I’m lucky. The incident to which I was subjected, while unforgettable, does not haunt me.

But imagine if the man who molested and abused me, Jim, had been a celebrity – and one who got more and more famous as each year turned.

The initial shock that this famous man has taken advantage of you and done something to you that you did not invite, and may even have caused you great immediate pain, is bad enough.

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But then to see him in the papers, on the TV peering out at you – no apology ever, just the horrible weekly, monthly, annual impression that he doesn’t give a damn what he did to you.

Year after year, Harris and Savile attract the apparent affection of the establishment and are rewarded with medals and honours. How bad would that make any of us feel? I described the sense of guilt that I as a child felt, that I in some way had done something dreadful. I had seen something I had never known to exist – a part of the human form in horrifying circumstance and condition.

How much would that sense of guild be exacerbated by the constant reminder of this ogre’s existence? How  could society be so wrong about him? It must be me that is wrong. How well one can understand that sentiment.

All praise to the policing efforts that have finally brought the prospect of closure to those these celebrities abused. It truly must have been a life sentence for so many of them.

But above all, let us all reserve the greatest gratitude, praise and abiding sympathy for those victims of these celebrities who have come forward to testify against their historic misdeeds.

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15 reader comments

  1. kate says:

    We never know what others have gone through – and I could not have been guessed at your past. But the fact you use your position to support other victims of abuse by airing it says a lot for the integrity with which you go through life – which I could have guessed at.

  2. Anon says:

    I pay tribute to the brave women who have testified and the families who have supported them in this case.They are helping to bring justice for themselves and others and raising awareness of the lifelong impact of abuse. It’s time to lift the lid on child sex abuse in every institution – including the family – where abuse is also happening “in plain sight”. Anyone who discloses their abuse – publicly or privately – is taking a huge step and they need support, respect and to be believed.

  3. John Smith says:

    Jon reading your blog today I had no idea of your ordeal, the way you have shown empathy for other victims in similar circumstance is to be commended. With all that’s gone on with people in the public eye (do not wish to call them celebrities) all male and mostly all from your generation, it’s reassuring that someone like yourself can not only write from first hand experience but can be seen as a positve role model as I’m sure a lot of tarring with the same brush may occur with regards older public figures.

    Rolf Harris came to my school when I was aged 9 and now in my 40’s I looked back at the whole experience (meeting Brotherhood of man, getting out of school for the day, being part of a TV programme) as one of my cherished childhood memories. So cherished in fact, myself and a friend tried to track down the footage for over 30 years. As we are from a “sink estate” photos and indeed moving image from yesteryear is a rareity, so to find a sample of this after our long search especially when I’ve known at least 4 people whom I can identify on the footage who are no longer with us was an accomplishment. To have this memory soiled is no doubt a shame but nothing compared to what some have been through. Speaking to someone else who was there as a 10 year old she “found it strange” that Mr Harris changed in the same changing room as the children rather than “having one of his own”. I’m not saying anything happened on that occasion but non the less it feels as if that part of our childhood has now been lost.

    I hope that the numerous victims abused by these predators live long and fulfiling lives and that good,strong decent role models may replace the worship of celebrity.

  4. Meg Howarth says:

    And much of Savile and Harris’ abuse took place under the eyes of the-then male-dominated BBC, just as later he was installed in Broadmoor by female Tory minister Edwina Currie.

  5. Frances Mannion says:

    Is there a connection between the communication now offered by the Internet etc and why so much that was hidden from the 60s to the 80s is only now being addressed? Did victims just not have a channel, other than a possibly disinterested police service, to go through, but now online media creates a climate that no longer tolerates such abuse? Personally feel as if the media has become a bigger force for social change re abuse than the police. Almost as if the police and CPS now act because the media are almost part of modern justice. No longer sure if the media are reporting change or creating it. Its like once the Catholic church were held accountable, it gave ‘permission’ for all similarly abused victims to seek whatever kind of justice may be accessible. And it helps its no longer an unspeakable secret; others, including John, having made it no longer a private hell no one must know of. Thanks John for your honesty on this.

  6. clinton wright says:

    I totally agree, these events going unpunished for so many years it remarkable how they have the determination to carry on abusing these people. Surly the BBC had an idea this was going on, I remember my wife saying that Jimmy Saville touched her friends breasts while he was in Southport .. Many years ago.
    Keep up the great work channel 4
    regards
    Clinton

  7. Stuart says:

    Admiration to the snowman !

  8. Clery Caravasi says:

    What surprised me is the lack of Ethics in the cases that involved hospitals where patients and people in disadvantage need to be protected twice. Nobody has rights to disturb people who are suffering inside of these institutions, not even in the character of Donald Duck , even families have visiting hours and they were giving access to this man at anytime because he was a celebrity. Celebrities are normal people with even mental problems, does it make a difference if a celebrity visit me in one hospital where I can be in pain and discomfort . Who is giving so much importance to some people and make others believe that they are more than others because they can capture the power of the media. Who needs to wake up in this circus parade?

  9. Aisha says:

    Thank-you Jon for this..It is so important to keep the focus on the victims/survivors not on these vile celebrities and to remind people that the majority of abusers are family members or close family friends, thus making it even more difficult for the v/s to disclose the crime, forcing them to live a life of terror and mis-placed shame. Next time you condemn someone unable to get their life together due to depression, addiction or deviant behaviour, stop, think.. could they be tormented by Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA).

  10. CM Charles says:

    What were Broadmoor or any other hospital thinking allowing anyone, even professional staff, to strip patients unless it was strictly necessary for their health and why would anyone professional allow any person, professional or lay, to watch a patient undress or see them naked unless essential? I expect we shall see claims for the psychological damage done to already damaged patients at hospitals by being sexually abused this way – and let’s get it right, it was sexual abuse and God only knows how much more damaged such patients are after they left Broadmoor than they were when they went it.

  11. Alistair says:

    Thanks for keeping this issue in the public spotlight Jon.

    As someone who was sexually abused as a child by a close relative, it was devastating to discover in later life that other family members had their suspicions, but did not intervene or expose my abuser.

  12. Rachel says:

    You are so right when you say that many victims of abuse – whether their abuser was famous or not – suffer a life sentence. Unfortunately, the purpertraters of that abuse often get sentences less than those for theft, often less than 18 months. Proven child abusers should get a minimum of 10 years – the sentences given are insulting to the victims. Celebrities may get more than 18 months but many don’t. We need to start protecting our children with serious deterrents for those tempted to abuse them.

  13. shile says:

    JOn snow should expand on his experience as a five year old child;

  14. Meg Howarth says:

    Lest we forget – most child abuse takes place within the home, amongst family members/friends – as indeed Harris abuse of his daughter’s friend demonstrates. Of course, pursuing the ‘lost’ Leon Brittan dossier into possible cover-up of ‘VIP’ political abusers is vital but we shouldn’t let the celebrity-status of the high-profile cases mask the reality. The question we have to ask and try to answer is why the sexual abuse of children takes place?

  15. Dj Footprint says:

    Many thanks Jon for your empathy and understanding towards the victims of abuse – and coming forward with your own experience. Also congratulations and thanks to your excellent news team in their (and yourself) tireless work over many months, in uncovering many aspects of the cases – ie: Cyril Smith and the Rochdale Care Homes etc.
    To my knowledge by the way, there is still footage on Youtube of John Lydon ( a.k.a. Rotten) describing Jimmy Saville for exactly what he was – way back in about 1979.

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