While perusing the BBC website today, I stumbled across yet another Savile story. BBC News – Jimmy Savile: The road to hypervigilance.
Now to be honest, this story hacked me off a little. Let’s look at some of the quotes from the story.
One of the extraordinary things about the Jimmy Savile case is the level of regular, easy access he appears to have had to vulnerable children in institutions such as care homes, schools, hospitals and the BBC.
Now, maybe I’m just a cynic, but I don’t find this surprising in the least. Predatory abusers are very skilled at getting themselves into positions of trust. That’s how they end us as scout leaders and teachers etc.
In an age of criminal records checks and children’s rights, it seems almost inconceivable that someone would be allowed such unfettered access…
If a celebrity like Savile was today a regular visitor to a school, for example once a month, he would typically be subject to an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.
Now, it is worth pointing out that Savile was not convicted of anything, so even if he had been CRB checked he would still have had access to children. I think CRB checks really do tend to give people a false sense of security because you can get a bit of paper that states that someone is ‘safe’. So people get this bit of paper and think ‘that person is safe, so I don’t need to worry about that’.
The main difference between now and the 1970s is arguably the level of vigilance. Inappropriate behaviour towards children rapidly raises alarm bells today. And what is deemed inappropriate has changed.
Now, while I agree that the level of vigilance has increased since the 1970s, I would argue that things haven’t changed as much as this article implies. In the recent Rochdale case, social workers and police officers knew about some of the young people being exploited by prostitution, yet dismissed it and believed that they were happy to work in that field. Even when girls said they were being abused nothing happened.
One valid point made in this article is –
“There’s a sense of everyone keeping an eye on everyone else. People can become paranoid – they can be frightened of putting a plaster on a child’s knee.
“On one hand we are stopping occasional awful things from happening, but on the other hand it is breaking down human interaction when it comes to caring for children,”
This hyper-vigilance that seems to be everywhere at the moment, is not protecting children. Far from it, in many ways children are now more at risk because adults are too afraid to help a child in distress, out of fear of being accused of something. I once heard about a small child that was out walking in the streets. This child was seen and remembered by numerous passers by, but no one stopped to ask this child where they were going or where their parents were. The child was later knocked down and killed on a road. How many lives could have been saved if people were more willing to intervene when they see a child in distress?
It’s time that we all stopped watching each other with suspicion, after all abusers are so good at hiding in plain sight that they’re always the last person you suspect anyway. Instead, let’s try to get back to looking out for each other. Let’s start sticking our noses in a wee bit more. If we see something that doesn’t seem right, ask if the person is ok. If you see a lost child, help them to find a safe adult to look after them such as a security guard or a police officer. If someone falls over in the street, help them up! It’s the human thing to do.