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UK Savile Sex Abuse Cover Up

An outrage: [1]

The British police and the country’s leading child welfare group drew a horrific picture of more than 200 cases of sexual abuse of children as young as 8 by the television host Jimmy Savile [2] in a report released on Friday [3], and prosecutors admitted for the first time that they could have brought Mr. Savile to trial before his death in 2011 but failed to do so.

The depiction of what Peter Spindler, a police commander, called a “vast, predatory and opportunistic” record of misconduct offered the latest gruesome indictment in a scandal that has plunged the British Broadcasting Corporation [4], Mr. Savile’s longtime employer, into crisis; drawn in a mounting tally of suspects and victims; and raised questions about the protection of children from predators in supposedly safe institutions.

In the process, Mr. Savile’s public image has been transformed. Once seen as a zany national treasure with a near-saintly commitment to charitable work with children — knighted by Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth II — he is now blamed for one of Britain’s most extensive catalogs of abuse.

“It is clear that Savile cunningly built his entire life into gaining access to vulnerable children,” said Peter Watt, a senior official of the children’s advocacy group, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, speaking at a joint news conference with police officials.

The report said Mr. Savile used his status as a celebrity to “hide in plain sight” as he committed criminal offenses in 28 police jurisdictions over nearly six decades.

Not only as a celebrity, but as an Authority. In the Times recently, Mark Oppenheimer wrote a piece talking about how sexual abuse is not a Catholic thing [5], but a matter of abusive authority figures taking advantage of their authority to exploit the vulnerable — and to get away with it because they can count on others to look away. For me, the real outrage in the Catholic sex abuse scandal was not so much the abusers themselves, as horrible as they were and are, but all the bishops — who were in a position to do something about it — looking the other way. (And, for that matter, all the laity too, who might have raised hell about it, but who found it easier to keep quiet and blame the victim.). Again, it’s not just a Catholic thing. When maintaining respect for institution or a person is critical to our understanding of how the world works, we have all kinds of psychological reasons for not seeing what is right in front of us. Oppenheimer:

Then there is the fear of bringing shame on the community, particularly prevalent in minority groups. “When I started in 1982,” said Phil Jacobs, the editor of Washington Jewish Week, “there was an 11th commandment — ‘Thou shalt not air thy dirty laundry.’ ” He learned that commandment in Baltimore, writing about the high percentage of Jews in a treatment program for compulsive gambling. “When I started calling people, they said, ‘You’re not going to put this in the paper, are you?’ So I found out Jews didn’t get AIDS, didn’t get divorced, didn’t abuse their wives or children.”

That fear of embarrassment may be why Dr. Lamm — who is still at Yeshiva and declined to be interviewed — stayed quiet about the abusive rabbis at Yeshiva. Perhaps he loathed what they had done, and wept for their victims. But, he also may have thought that people shouldn’t hear bad things about Jews. People shouldn’t know, in other words, that Jews are just like everyone else.

That is everyone else, not just religious people. The Satmar Hasidim may have wanted to protect a beloved member, the Modern Orthodox administrators probably worried about their community’s reputation — and the Penn State loyalists enabled Jerry Sandusky. Somehow, the victims never seem as important as the rabbi, the Zen master, the coach. In the words of a once-revered rabbi, Norman Lamm, may as well let the perpetrators “go quietly.”

Neither Jerry Sandusky nor Jimmy Savile were religious figures. And yet, look. Yesterday on Fresh Air, the writer Barry Lopez talked [6] about how he was sexually abused for years as a child by a fraudulent doctor. The adults in his life who could have saved him knew, or had reason to know, but looked the other way. To admit that what was happening was actually happening was too difficult for them to accept. So they sacrificed a little boy to their own cowardice, and rationalized it.

 

36 Comments (Open | Close)

36 Comments To "UK Savile Sex Abuse Cover Up"

#1 Comment By Rosie Land On January 11, 2013 @ 11:04 am

Did I hallucinate that you had 3 entries on the cowboy? I’m not objecting to your deleting one , if you did, but I have the flu (me and everyone else in town) so I would really like to know if I dreamed that 3rd one or not.

[Note from Rod: You’re right, I did. But I decided on reflection that this is not a pot that’s worth stirring/a bear that’s worth poking/choose your own metaphor for a mess of trouble. — RD]

#2 Comment By Adam On January 11, 2013 @ 11:14 am

Predatory behavior of a sexual nature is always about domiance and authority. Rape is a perfect example, as is pediphelia. Pediphiles may or may not be wired to be attracted to children, I think that stance is debatable, but they are most certainly wired to dominance. Abuse of position is how the most successful ply their trade.

#3 Comment By Rosie Land On January 11, 2013 @ 11:20 am

I am glad I did not hallucinate that 3rd post, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to go all cowboy, all the time. I will now ride off into the sunset until I feel better or die, whichever comes first.

#4 Comment By jaybird On January 11, 2013 @ 11:33 am

In the Times recently, Mark Oppenheimer wrote a piece talking about how sexual abuse is not a Catholic thing, but a matter of abusive authority figures taking advantage of their authority to exploit the vulnerable — and to get away with it because they can count on others to look away.

You’ve often written on this blog about how modern Western civilization suffers from a ‘crisis of authority’ compared to the past, but really, how much more prevalent was this (and other) sort of abuse 100 or 1000 years ago, when the authority of church and state was nearly unquestionable? In short, if you want widespread deference to ‘authority’, you are going to get this sort of thing – human beings always have been and still are extremely susceptible to dominance hierarchies – be they spiritual, psychological, economic, or (even especially) sexual… it’s part of our primate heritage.

#5 Comment By Scott S On January 11, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

And of course when the abuses do come to light, they end up doinng even more damage to the institutions and their leaders. And create rifts in the community as some retreat further into denial and victim-blaming. All these cases are very human tragedies all around.

#6 Comment By KC On January 11, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

What about Dinesh D’Souza sex scandal post? It seems to have been deleted.

[Note from Rod: Honestly, I don’t recall. I can’t imagine why I would have deleted it, but perhaps there was a legal issue? Nobody at TAC asked me to, FYI. — RD]

#7 Comment By The Wet One On January 11, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

So it goes here amidst the humans. Still though, it’s getting better than it was. Not that we have much in the way of details historically but consider how things that are uncovered are always worse than what one imagines, just think of what it was like back in the day BEFORE there was any antiseptic light being shone on abuse, by journalists or the internet. We know about things like the Shoah and slavery and the abuses committed then. I’d like to think it’s better now than it was, no matter how dispiriting the truth is.

#8 Comment By CK On January 11, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

“with a near-saintly commitment to charitable work with children”

That’s usually a clue something’s not right. We don’t need more priests, we need more sisters and nuns to work with little ones.

#9 Comment By Joe Magarac On January 11, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

Good post. But I think you are forgetting something or assuming something. You seem to think that if Bishop A or Penn State Coach B or BBC Executive C had been told that X was abusing children, then the natural instinct of A or B or C would be to report X to the police and to call X out for his wrongful behavior. The only thing holding A or B or C back would be concern that by reporting X or making his misdeeds public, A or B or C would bring shame on an important institution.

I am not sure that’s correct. One of the things we’ve learned about the Catholic sex abuse scandal is that some bishops, after being told that a priest was abusing children, asked the police and also psychiatrists what should be done. The police were usually willing to do nothing, and the psychiatrists usually said that with treatment the priest could be trusted to keep away from kids in the future. Both the police and the psychiatrists seemed to believe that sex abuse would not scar kids for life; they’d grow past it as long as adults didn’t make a big deal of it.

We now know that almost all of this older conventional wisdom was wrong. Kids don’t get past sex abuse so easily, and abusers cannot be considered “cured” no matter how much treatment they’ve had. But blaming bishops or coaches or executives for what they did in 1993 based on what we now know in 2013 is probably unfair.

It is also worth noting that in many cases, an abuser will place himself in a position of access to multiple kids, and will begin testing all of them to see which ones he can safely abuse. He will do this by gradually escalating his touches. If a kid complains about an early and seemingly innocuous touch, then he’s too risky and the abuser will drop him and move on. Sandusky appears to have done this, and Malcolm Gladwell wrote a good piece about it recently. Saville may have done the same. If so, there’s an obvious problem for blaming authorities in the past: the kids who complained, and whose complaints supposedly should have led to the discovery of serious abuse, were not actually being abused themselves – not yet. They had been semi-innocuously touched, and they were right to go to the authorities about it, but the authorities usually didn’t have enough evidence of actual abuse to go after the abuser at that point. The kids who were actually being abused were not the ones complaining.

#10 Comment By Zathras On January 11, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

The Steubenville scumbags are another example here. They did not have any sort of hierarchical authority, but they had enough authority conferred upon them by the social order that they felt they could get away with this kind of behavior.

So what do we do? Are the benefits of such authority outweighed by the inevitable abuses?

#11 Comment By Fred On January 11, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

Did a bunch of posts get deleted?

[Note from Rod: No, but I did delete the most recent Alisa Valdes post, because whatever’s going on with her is, on reconsideration, not something I want to be a part of. That took down about 10 posts. I apologize to ye who posted. — RD]

#12 Comment By JohnE_o On January 11, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

Are the benefits of such authority outweighed by the inevitable abuses?

Interesting question…

What exactly are the benefits of these Authorities?

And who are the ones benefiting?

#13 Comment By MBunge On January 11, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

“So they sacrificed a little boy to their own cowardice, and rationalized it.”

I think we’ve seen this behavior too often to write it off as “cowardice”. We all like to think we’d NEVER do it, but denial is one of the most common human impulses.

I mean, if someone told you that your best friend in the world or the person you’ve most admired your entire life were sexually abusing children, do you honestly think your reaction would be to accept the validity of that claim and immediately act on it? Now imagine that instead of a direct allegation, there are just hints and indications and uncomfortable, unasked questions.

Which isn’t to make excuses for the folks who look the other way. When we’re confronted by evil, we have a duty to respond. But I think the only way we can get a handle on this problem is to recognize how utterly normal it is to not want to face such horrible realities.

Mike

#14 Comment By isaacplautus On January 11, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

“abusive authority figures taking advantage of their authority to exploit the vulnerable — and to get away with it because they can count on others to look away.”

And it won’t stop until society holds these charismatic figures to account and stops looking the other way.

#15 Comment By MEH 0910 On January 11, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

What about Dinesh D’Souza sex scandal post? It seems to have been deleted.

[7]

UPDATE: Sorry about the Dinesh D’Souza post that appeared below, which I let stay up a few minutes before having second thoughts and removing it. I don’t know the whole story, and shouldn’t say anything until I do. It was wrong of me to post in haste. Again, I’m sorry about that. I’ll restore your comments to an updated post — and I’ll update it when more complete information is available.

[8]

#16 Comment By Thursday On January 11, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

There is a downside to the conservative reverence for authority as elucidated by Haidt. Though in this case Savile was a rock ‘n roller, in media, two areas dominated by lefties, so liberals are not immune from this.

But I do wonder if respect for authority is always and ever a good thing.

#17 Comment By Rebecca Trotter On January 11, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

Some what off topic, but relevant re authority. People I know will regularly make statements saying that when they were kids if they got in trouble at school, they dreaded what waited for them at home even more than the consequences the school doled out. And they lament that this is no longer the case. Teachers I know will affirm that they simply do not enjoy the sort of parental support which was common not so long ago. However, I would be willing to bet what is behind this isn’t simply negligent parents, but parents with memories of being students in schools were authority was being abused and no one would come to their aid. And now that they have their own kids, they don’t trust the school’s authority and are on the look-out to make sure that their own children aren’t similarly mistreated. This is probably unfair to particular teachers and may not always be handled well by the parents, to be sure. But I’d be willing to bet dimes to dollars that this is what’s going on.

The reality is that authority abused eventually becomes authority destroyed. I know that I have a deep mistrust of authority which many conservatives would try to argue is destructive. However, the reality is that every time I have allowed myself to be pressured into trusting authority as a matter of course, I have ended up deeply regreting it. Perhaps once we’ve raised a generation or two of kids who have been taught to trust their instincts and come to their own conclusions, it will be harder for those who would abuse power to gain it. But for the time being, I know that I teach my kids to co-operate with authority when need be, but never to trust anyone for any reason other than their own good character. What has been done has been brought into the light and authority has been destroyed in the process. We will flail about for a while with out it, but all in all I say good riddence.

#18 Comment By David Lindsay On January 11, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

Four hundred and fifty?

And not one of them ever said a word until he was dead and buried? Not a single, solitary one? Over 50 years? About a man who for most of those years was one of the most famous people in the country? For dirt on whom the tabloid press would have paid any amount of money that the informant might have cared to demand?

Ah, there’s the rub.

Sir Jimmy Savile’s estate ought to be distributed forthwith, in undeviating accordance with his last will and testament. All claims still standing after that will be deserving of further consideration and investigation, with no pecuniary motive. Those, and none other.

#19 Comment By jmo On January 11, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

Also, for many of these kids the question was…. Do you want to spend the weekend hanging out with Sandusky at the Penn State games, going out to dinner, getting all kinds of gifts and attention – with it’s terrible price? Or, do you want to go home and get the crap kicked out of your by mom’s latest drunk boyfriend?

I’m willing to bet many of these kids were chosen by Sandusky because their home situation was so desperate that they would have done everything in their power to deny that anything occurred if they were confronted.

#20 Comment By jmo On January 11, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

Also, for many of these kids the question was…. Do you want to spend the weekend hanging out with Sandusky at the Penn State games, going out to dinner, getting all kinds of gifts and attention –with it’s terrible price? Or, do you want to go home and get the crap kicked out of your by mom’s latest drunk boyfriend?

I’m willing to bet many of these kids were chosen by Sandusky because their home situation was so desperate that they would have done everything in their power to deny that anything occurred if they were confronted.

#21 Comment By Charles Cosimano On January 11, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

I’m going to come out of left field on this and wonder what role British libel law may have played in all this. It could very well have been fear of that that kept the wolves from Jimmy the Geek.

But I wonder how many more cases like this and Sandusky will it take to make people realize that respect for authority is bad in all cases and those who make a claim to it are never to be trusted.

#22 Comment By Thursday On January 11, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

But I’d be willing to bet dimes to dollars that this is what’s going on.

You have no historical sense. Teachers enjoyed that kind of respect for generation after generation and nobody thought twice about it.

The decline in respect for authority in our society was _not_ a response to specific abuses.

#23 Comment By Thursday On January 11, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

respect for authority is bad in all cases and those who make a claim to it are never to be trusted.

It’s completely stupid and overblown responses like this that make me a conservative.

#24 Comment By Thursday On January 11, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

jmo:

I’m willing to bet many of these kids were chosen by Sandusky because their home situation was so desperate

Absolutely.

#25 Comment By Charles Cosimano On January 11, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

Thursday, it is the stupidity of believing in authority that allows abuses to happen at all. Get rid of it! We will all be the safer.

#26 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 11, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

I was beaten and abused by other children, and teachers and school authorities never stopped it even though they knew.

I also knew some teachers and suffered the abuses they subjected children to, enjoying untrammelled pleasures of domination of those weaker.

As a result, one of my anthems is Pink Floyd’s The Wall lyrics: “Teacher, leave them kids alone.” As well as Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out Forever” (he’s now a Christian, but the song sentiments still hold).

After all, don’t most people, including our highest politicians, support and enable torture?

Question authority – before they question you.

They don’t like the cold public light of WikiLeaks much, do they?

Abuse always mantles itself with secrecy.

#27 Comment By Gerard On January 11, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

Wow, I’m glad I stumbled on this post to get that link to the Dinesh D’Souza post. To paraphrase La Rochefoucauld, “I have sufficient fortitude to bear the misfortunes of others, especially pharasaical Evangelicals.”

I like what Jaybird said. I wonder why more mediocre intellects in secular world don’t just join the Evangelical world where they’ll be highly compensated and fawned over. As a Christian it was uncomfortable recently watching Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous. Wow, even Dr. Francis Collins (head of NIH) looked foolish with Maher’s questions. The only one who didn’t look foolish was the head of the Vatican Observatory, Fr, George Coyne, S.J. I recall reading in Nobel Laureate physicist Steven Weinberg’s The Last Three Minutes where he said among the elite scientists he knows there are few religious believers. He mentions one practicing Muslim (presumably Abdus Salam whom he won the Nobel Prize with), one mathematical physicist who was an Anglican priest (Plokinghorne), and two general relativists who were devout Catholics (one being Charles Misner).

#28 Comment By KC On January 11, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

I’m worried about the worshipful attention & reputation granted to charity benefactors.

How do you get a reputation that partly or wholly immunizes you from ugly accusations? Large, public charity donations seem to do the trick.

If you want to molest children like Saville or Sandusky or dope & cheat like Lance Armstrong, then making a sizable public donation to charity will canonize you & make it very diificult for people to believe the truth.

In this way, the charity donation is a business expense like insurance. And if you are Saville or Armstrong, what’s a few million when you are making one hundred million or more? Armstrong or Saville couldn’t have made their fortunes if the truth had come out sooner. The donations acted as protection.

Because we want to believe in the beautiful uplifting story of the cancer survivor who conquers his disease & sport & devotes his time to cancer victims.

We want to believe in the successful football coach who devotes his time & money to fatherless underprivileged boys.

We want to believe in the single, childless famous entertainer who devotes his resources to sick children.

We want to believe these men are better, purer, nobler than others. That they are selfless & generous in ways others are not. We heap praise, awards, worship on them.

When the truth comes out, we do not want to believe it. We liked the selfless noble story better.

We believe the lies in part because we want to believe them. The fairy tale is so much more pleasant & comforting.

We then look for new people to worship & venerate.

But making large public charity donations seems to be a successful strategy to avoid discovery & disgrace. Victims will need to overcome the presumption of saintliness that accompanies it.

I am in no way comparing Armstrong’s doping with child molesting. Obviously, molesting is a far graver sin. But using charity donations to squash questions or rumors can be used in all kinds of situations.

It is also possible that the donations helped quiet consciences of the guilty. A kind of penance as it were.

But we should consider rethinking the unquestioned reverence & high reputation that accompanies highly public charity giving.

#29 Comment By Rebecca Trotter On January 11, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

Thursday, I’m not sure what the generations upon generations of respect have to do with anything I said. It’s certainly not a refutation of my point. If anything it proves it – schools behaved terribly to kids for a very long time before people really protested. So what? Slavery existed for millenia before we decided it was unacceptable. Women in Africa have been having their genitals destroyed for thousands of years. WTF does that prove besides that refusing to be abused or allow one’s children to be abused is a pretty recent phenomena?

#30 Comment By Thursday On January 11, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

Read what you said, Rebecca:

However, I would be willing to bet what is behind this isn’t simply negligent parents, but parents with memories of being students in schools were authority was being abused and no one would come to their aid. And now that they have their own kids, they don’t trust the school’s authority and are on the look-out to make sure that their own children aren’t similarly mistreated. This is probably unfair to particular teachers and may not always be handled well by the parents, to be sure. But I’d be willing to bet dimes to dollars that this is what’s going on.

You were drawing a causal link. I pointed out that that the alleged cause had been in effect for a long, long time without producing the effect, so it was extremely improbably that it was the cause. That’s how logic works.

#31 Comment By Thursday On January 11, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

it is the stupidity of believing in authority that allows abuses to happen at all. Get rid of it! We will all be the safer

So one of the five major moral foundations, something that has evolved for millenia, just has no function at all and can be abolished at will with no adverse consequences? What an incredibly good fantastically stupid idea. (Isn’t blithe liberal know-it-all-ness grand?)

#32 Comment By Glaivester On January 11, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

Of course within the correct limits respect for authority is a good thing. How can you teach a class if the students don’t shut up and listen when the teacher says so?

How can you have a society if there are no rules, or if there is no one empowered to enforce the rules, or if people do not have some uncoerced deference to the rules?

Without some respect for authority, there is no incentive to obey the law except (a) when it pleases you, or (b) someone stronger than you is willing to enforce it on you.

Respect for authority is not absolute, but you need some unless you want to live in total chaos.

The question is how to make certain those with authority have respect for their responsibility.

#33 Comment By KC On January 11, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

I wonder what role “keeping up appearances” play. We heard that abuse is covered up to present a filtered rose colored glasses view of the group.

Like Lake Woebegone, everybody is above average. Can’t have people believing our group is fallible& has problems like all other people.

When I heard about Nancy Lanza mother of Sany Hook shooter Adam, I was amazed by the friends & family who didn’t know about her troubled son. While she has her right to privacy, I found it disturbing she felt it necessary to “keep up appearances” and conceal her problems with her son. She might have received support & help.

I think keeping secrets to maintain a false reputation of freedom from errors, problems, mistakes only makes things worse.

#34 Comment By Glaivester On January 12, 2013 @ 1:54 am

Predatory behavior of a sexual nature is always about domiance and authority.

Err… I don’t know. I can’t help but notice a tendency to try to define all negative sex acts as something other than sex. I can’t help but wonder if this is a way to try to promote total sexual liberation (including guilt-free promiscuity and the like – this is about a lot of things, not just the gay wars) while disavowing any negative consequences. Simply redefine any sex act you don’t like as primarily about something else.

Rape is a perfect example, as is pediphelia. Pediphiles may or may not be wired to be attracted to children, I think that stance is debatable, but they are most certainly wired to dominance.

Are you sure?

Abuse of position is how the most successful ply their trade.

Considering that sex with the underage is considered abuse automatically, that is almost tautological.

So just to be clear, it’s not really about satisfying sexual urges. No, that’s just a means to the end of domination/hate. No, nothing to do with sex, so no reason to worry about the effect of the sexual revolution on our attitudes towards that. Nothing to see here, move on…

#35 Comment By Heather On January 12, 2013 @ 6:36 am

“with a near-saintly commitment to charitable work with children”

CK says: “That’s usually a clue something’s not right. We don’t need more priests, we need more sisters and nuns to work with little ones.”

That’s another myth and it’s also an irresponsible stereotype to promulgate. Women are very active in abusing children. They can also be horrific abusers.

[9]

Thousands of children living in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland were subjected to decades of horrific abuse while authorities stood by and did nothing, a damning report has revealed.

The long-awaited report, released in Dublin on Wednesday, outlined the terror of rampant sexual abuse, rapes and beatings inflicted on thousands of children over a 60-year period by priests, nuns and lay staff.

Read more: [10]

In families, women are often the abuse enabler. They know the abuse is going, they let it happen, even support the abuser, they turn against the child and intimidate it. While one cannot say they are directly performing the physical/sexual abuse, they are instrumental in maintaining it by refusing to protect the child and stop the abuse. And they often then engage in all kinds of cover-up actions, including of a legal nature.

#36 Comment By Heather On January 12, 2013 @ 6:47 am

Another problem with the issue of abuse in society is that while just about everyone loves to profess how much they think abuse is horrible, if you ask how many of these people actually dedicate one hour of their week or month to any kind of activities that will diminish or redress abuse in society -that is, concrete action- you’ll be hard pressed to find such individuals.

American society in particular invests enormous resources in trying to identify terrorists as compared to child abusers – even though the latter cause much greater and profound harm in society – to millions of its most vulnerable individuals, children.