I didn’t expect the drama about Jimmy Savile to add anything new – he got away with it – that’s the point. It was a stark reminder of when no one wanted to believe that any adult would sexually abuse a child. I was 13 when someone first explained what a paedophile was. I thought, Nah, no adult would want to have sex with a child; the thought is too repulsive. So, like many people, I accepted the bad girls’ makeup stories – precisely the one Savile used.
It was a particularly bleak time for children when no one would believe them – so in their head, it must have been their own fault – just the kind of double bind abusers wanted them to have. I started to attend Bruton School for Girls in 1976 – there was a girl thought of as an oddball. In an English lesson, she said something odd, and everyone laughed at her; she was crying, and even the teacher laughed. Some months later she was withdrawn from the school because someone had found very unacceptable letters from her parents, something about an unacceptable relationship with them – the whole rumour was that she had done something very wrong, there was something wrong with her.
So the drama “The Reckoning” is accurate about the time. I also think it is a timely reminder of how dangerous groupthink was and is. Everyone in the BBC knew about the Savile rumours. I joined the BBC in 1987, and within six months, I’d been told that Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter liked little girls -but no one had any proof so that any claims would have been unsubstantiated. I was also warned never to get into a lift with Dave-Lee-Travis (David Griffin) – as he groped women. He was not guilty of most of the charges and only got a suspended sentence for that which convicted him. However, I got a recent reminder that not guilty does not necessarily mean they are innocent. Someone at the Harrow M.S. Therapy Centre had been on jury service. She said that the jury in one case thought the accused had done the crime but did not think the charges were proven – so they had to give a not-guilty verdict.
In a beach scene near the end of “The Reckoning,” on a pebbly beach, Savile sits on a bench next to Beryl Hullighan (who has always been suspicious of Savile). A small girl, about 8 or 9, is collecting pebbles nearby. Savile says, “Hello, sweetheart, come and have a dangle on Jimmy’s knee.” The little girl says, “It’s not allowed; mam says I’m not supposed to sit on stranger’s knees.” “I’m not a stranger; I’m Jimmy Savile.” The girl is called by her mother, “Got to go.” Girl leaves. Savile says, “Hurry up and be sixteen.” Beryl says, “Hurry up and be sixteen – what’s that about? Why would you say that to a little girl?” “Just a bit of fun” Beryl “Children, you disgust me.” Beryl leaves. So the reckoning can be that no one doubts what is and is not “Harmless fun.” Also, Savile was the first to be exposed; then Rolf Harris Stuart Hall eventually Weinstein for the abuse of women. So perhaps in the fullness of time, the Reckoning will come for all those who abuse – there’ll be nowhere left to hide.
Also, much has been said about it being unfair when well-known people are accused way after the fact. One of the people who Savile abused says, “I think when the story broke and I realised, I wasn’t the only one – I wasn’t pleased that other people had suffered, but I was glad it wasn’t just me, that’s what gave me the impetus to come forward.”