Systemic Sex Abuse

Stuart Hall - Sex Offender
Stuart Hall – Sex Offender

I feel devastated, disgusted and betrayed. After hearing the news that TV and radio icon Stuart Hall has admitted to assaulting thirteen girls between the ages of nine and seventeen I feel utterly, utterly sick to the very pit of my stomach. I physically wanted to wretch. I feel like vomiting. I’m absolutely stunned by the news. Stuart Hall was an icon to so many of us growing up in the UK in the seventies and eighties. A superb wit, a superlative broadcaster with a superb gift for comedy. I loved the man, as so many of us did back then. To hear that Stuart Hall was an ‘opportunistic predator’ of young girls in many ways destroys my own conception of my younger and teenage years. What icons we had! First Jimmy Savile, a British institution no less, and now Stuart Hall. I feel like a little part of me has been ripped out and spat on.

Jimmy Savile - Sex Offender
Jimmy Savile – Sex Offender

What makes things even worse is the fact that it is not only Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, who seemingly did (ironically) so much for charity, but it is a long list of media stars who join them on the deviant roll call of shame. It now turns out that Hall is the eleventh person who is being investigated under Operation Yewtree which seeks to uncover the nasty truth about all the dark deeds of Jimmy Savile et al. The roll call of shame makes morbid, disturbing reading. Along with the now deceased Savile we find sex offender, seventies glam pop star Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr, radio DJ and icon Dave Lee Travis, comedian Jim Davison and (according to the BBC) entertainer Rolf Harris, who were all arrested as part of Operation Yewtree. Every single one of these people were truly ‘big names’ in my formative years.

Savile - Friend to Prime Ministers?
Savile – Friend to Prime Ministers?

As well as the numerous counts of assault, abuse and rape from this collection of ‘stars’, there are two questions that keep popping into my head. Firstly, how the hell could have this gone unnoticed? Hall is said to have assaulted thirteen girls from 1968 to 1986. Savile seems truly villainous in that there are said to have been 589 victims across four decades. Surely, some of these victims asked for help. Why has it taken so long to bring these ‘stars’ to justice? Why didn’t any one help? Secondly, what part did the BBC play in all this? Operation Yewtree has already seen several prominent BBC employees been arrested (not including the stars, of course).

Savile - Friend to Royalty?
Savile – Friend to Royalty?

So not only have several major British media stars been arrested on charges of assault, abuse and rape but the major British institution itself, the BBC, has a lot to answer for. A shadow has been cast on the reputation of dear old Auntie Beeb that I’m afraid will never go away. Many of us feel demoralised and disgusted but, for me, the feeling of betrayal is the hardest to take. I feel betrayed because as a child I trusted Savile, Hall, Starr, Davidson and Lee Travis. They were on my side, weren’t they? They were with us on TV, at home, over dinner, over tea. We trusted them. We trusted the BBC. And it’s all gone. That past has been mangled, warped and destroyed. I’ll never be able to look back with fondness because I’ll still have a bitter taste in the back of my throat.


6 thoughts on “Systemic Sex Abuse

  1. Principally because women’s opinions and complaints were routinely ignored and dismissed. It was truly a culturally different time, something which I certainly occasionally find hard to remember now. Also, and still prevalent, men in power are still given leeway to behave as they want; that is an older, darker part of human nature which is not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s only thanks to the assertiveness of women and their defenders that behaviour like this is now exposed and challenged. I wonder about behaviour patterns which we now, in 2013, consider acceptable but which will come under scrutiny before we die.

    And as for a violated childhood – well, yes. Our media landscape, which is as much a part of us as the houses and streets we grew up on, now looks irrevocably different. Rolf Harris, I mean, Jesus. John f*cking Peel. Were they all at it? (We might take a second to recall the ‘satanic child abuse’ scare of the 90s, though, much of which turned out to be suggestible children semi-deliberately manipulated by overzealous social workers: some of that might be involved now. Children’s personalities are like gelignite – infinitely malleable, powerful, unpredictable.) Our childhoods have been violated; although, of course, not as much as those of the young women who were physically and emotionally violated by powerful, smiling men beyond impunity. Or of those who, today, are in similar, unreported situations.

    1. As ever, dialogue with you is a pleasure, Jim. Indeed, our cultural-gender-scape has morphed beyond all recognition but I still find it so hard to believe it was this bad. Someone has called it mental childhood rape, which is rather like how I feel.
      How about the Beeb? What’s your take on Auntie Beeb’s involvement in this slime?

  2. The BBC is over 90 years old. Nothing of that age, be it a person, a building, an institution or a country, will work efficiently; only parts of it can be replaced, ‘Lincoln’s axe’-style. The BBC was a part of the same sexist culture of the period – how could it have been any different? it was composed of humans who shared the same values. Now the times are different, the people are different – look at its anxious, spinning, polished managers straining to defend it in public and ensure that such things won’t happen again. And they probably won’t, because of the broader cultural shifts which made the revelations possible in the first place. And if the BBC is reflecting these shifts, it is doing its job.

    On media: my fear is of those rightist elements who want to break up and privatise the BBC, lost as they are in shiny fantasies of Murdoch/FOX-style entertainment conglomerates packaging fact-free ‘news’ and ample, mindless, populist programming which would fill all the right pockets and opiate (I’m verbing 😉 ) the masses. And the BBC, for all its blundering, dusty, confused, contradictory, inefficient ways, still represents our strongest bastion against those dangers.

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