The most talked about topic of discussion in my workplace for the past few weeks has been Jimmy Savile. Everyone has been talking about it.
I am 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 physically (violently) abused by another member of family. I am also a survivor of a totally unrelated ‘assault’ as an adult.
I am a survivor of ‘trying to die’ because five years ago life was so tough that I felt there was no other option or way out, but, I am a survivor who is learning to live again, learning to laugh again, learning to love again.
I am also learning that I can be a voice who can speak out. Someone who can tweet, write, talk, share and raise awareness of what ‘surviving’ is like. Someone who can speak out on behalf of those who are not able to. And those people are many. More than you can ever imagine.
I was unable to talk. To let anyone know the pain I was in. The hurt. The anger. The shame. The guilt.
So, it has been interesting, and quite hard at times to hear people’s views of the victims of Jimmy Savile. The Jimmy Savile who for years was ‘held in high esteem’ for his charity work, his brilliant TV career etc.
When I very first heard the story break, I was shocked because as a child, I idolised him. 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 him to come and ‘fix’ my world for me. He was amazing. As I grew up, got older, I became aware of him being an eccentric old man but I would never have put ‘Jimmy Savile’ and ‘child abuser’ in the same sentence. Yet at the same time as being shocked, I was not shocked. Because it is all so plausible, so real. So credible. What’s more is people who abuse can be anyone, including the powerful, rich and famous.
So, I fully believe it. I fully believe the victims. 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’.
Some of them did report it. And yet were ignored. The power and money of Jimmy Savile proved more than anyone was able to contend with. So what does that say to those who were unable to (understandably) find that voice to speak out? Nothing whatsoever encouraged those who were unable to initially speak out, then to do so.
Anyone who utters the words ‘why didn’t they just say no’ truly does not have any understanding of how abuse works. It’s not as 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’.
They didn’t. There are records, investigations stopped, programmes made that were shelved. Many of them tried to speak out before he was dead.
Imagine you are sitting in your school class, and your headteacher calls you out. There is someone in the town; let’s say the mayor, who just happens to be rich, famous, and very well-known and popular. He takes you into a room, and rapes you. Abuses you. He is twice the size of you, and although you do say no, you scream, you kick, you try to get away he’s able to overpower you. Hold you down. And he tells 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 made hell. He tells you that you are a slut, you asked for it, and deserve it. He tells 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 he says. 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 headteacher and the mayor. The mayor has just donated millions of pounds for a new tech facility at the school. The crowds are there. Everyone is talking about how fantastic he is. But you, you know different. You know what he 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 somehow 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 headteacher 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.
Please don’t forget the victims. In all of the talk, the chit chat, please don’t forget that out there are people, women, and maybe men who are victims.
People who have had what can only be described as the worst 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, 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.
Let us stand and let them know that. Because being a survivor can be a very lonely place to be.
Please know that if you are a survivor, you are not alone.
You are not guilty.
It was not your fault.