by Kevin Meagher
If you remember the 1960’s the old counter-culture quip goes, you weren’t really there.
Jimmy Savile certainly was; and as his torrent of victims attests, they do remember. Perhaps we didn’t have a name for what Savile was doing back then, leaving his victims to face an inarticulate inner torment about what had even happened to them. But they have suddenly found their voice. And now we do know what to call it.
But Jimmy Savile is not an adequate public face for contemporary paedophilia. In fact creepy old bogeymen like Savile, Gary Glitter or Jonathan King actually hamper our understanding of the far more prosaic dangers facing children and young people.
The recent child abuse cases in Rotherham and Rochdale involving gangs of predominantly Pakistani men offers a very different face of 21st century child abuse in Britain, with scores of young girls used as little more than sex slaves passed about by groups of vicious, inhuman child rapists.
But the problem is not confined to just predatory celebrities, or, for that matter, particular ethnic groups. Indeed, the NSPCC says that the majority of child abusers sexually assault children known to them, with about 80 per cent of offences taking place in the home of either the offender or the victim.
But to truly understand and tackle this vile problem in our midst we need to cast the net wider than just the perpetrators.
Just as the BBC must face up to allegations that its premises were systematically used by Savile to procure and abuse young people, so, too, the social workers, teachers, police officers and youth workers who allow vulnerable young people in their charge – like those in Rochdale and Rotherham – to enter into abusive “relationships” under that wretched dogma of making “informed choices” deserve similar sanction.
In a culture where relative morality reigns, upholding normative values and codes of behaviour is therefore anathema. Refusing to make judgements on people’s lifestyle choices becomes the paramount concern for the professional class dealing with these issues. Yet thirteen year-old girls in care need protection and guidance, not a ready stash of free condoms or contraceptive injections.
As deputy children’s commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, put it recently: “There isn’t a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.” Some of it accentuated by public agencies which promulgate a warped anti-morality as a response to the problem.
This is a Swiftian world where an obsession with making it as difficult as possible for good people to adopt or foster children takes precedence over stopping children, ostensibly in their care, from falling into the clutches of evil perverts. Nannying when they shouldn’t be. Laissez-faire when they should be nannying.
But beyond this failing there is a more pervasive issue. Our popular culture sexualises youth to an unprecedented degree – from padded bras marketed at pre-pubescent girls, through to hardcore pornography at the fingertips of any child with access to a computer – and it is having a noxious effect on our children’s lives.
As teacher Chloe Combi brilliantly – but disturbingly – explained in in this week’s Times Educational Supplement, our schools are left grappling with the effects, with teachers on lunchtime “blow-job patrol” the unpleasant end result.
So Jimmy Savile will continue to face posthumous and rightful indignation for the 300 young lives he so blighted, but it is not only predators like Savile that we have to worry about. In fact, it is not people like him we should mostly worry about. It is the indifference of our popular culture to abuse and the ineptness – the wilful and stupid disregard of the state – in warding it off where we should now focus our opprobrium.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut