A lot has changed since Jimmy Savile's time, but shame and stigma still allow sex abuse to thrive

If abuse survivors don't feel comfortable talking openly about their experiences, we're adding unnecessary shame to all the trauma they've already suffered

Share
Related Topics

There has been much written in the last few weeks about the recent allegations that Jimmy Savile, one of Britain’s most popular showbiz personalities for over four decades, was in fact a predatory pedophile. People have pointed to the culture of silence around the issue of sexual abuse at the time, which they say facilitated his actions.

There is no doubt that things have changed since then, but to suggest that we live in an altogether different reality today is ludicrous. It is still taboo to discuss child sexual abuse (CSA) openly, and as a result a social climate continues to exist which not only allows it to thrive, but carries the danger of further harming survivors in the process.

Around one in four people from all walks of life are survivors of CSA, and the effects are often devastatingly far reaching. Many go on to develop conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or in the case of ongoing abuse, Complex PTSD

Yet I imagine comparatively few would feel comfortable in openly and freely sharing their circumstances, in contrast to the lack of stigma associated with disclosing a physical condition, for example.

Some may argue that due to the personal nature of abuse, people wouldn’t want to openly admit to having been affected by it. While this will be true for some survivors, this does not justify the lack of a choice, and indeed, the fear of potential consequences only mirror the perceived risk of disclosure many survivors felt as children.

If society provided an open forum that enabled every survivor to feel able to talk frankly about the abuse and its effects if they wanted to, the security of this knowledge would arguably go a long way in aiding their recovery. It would remove the unnecessary layer of potential anxiety of feeling like it is something socially unacceptable to divulge, and allow them to instead focus on the healing process itself.

When I first wrote about the culture of shame around CSA for The Independent in May , it quickly became apparent from the reader comments that many simply refused to believe the one in four statistic, further reinforcing the view that a blind eye is often turned to child sex abuse in society.

If society provided an open forum that enabled every survivor to talk frankly about the abuse and its effects if they wanted to, it would go a long way in aiding their recovery.

Eliminating the shadowy stigma around CSA would hopefully lead to the general public more readily acknowledging the true extent of the problem, and would also enable the three in four majority to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by survivors.

Ultimately, all this would provide an environment where abuse was less likely to take place to begin with. This would in turn serve to reduce the number of people suffering with mental health conditions, alcoholism, drug addiction and other social ills that are often rooted in abuse.

Yet the matter appears low on the Government’s agenda, with funding recently cut for key charities like One in Four UK, one of the few organisations offering specific CSA therapy. And why isn’t there a major ad campaign? Or a tour of all schools educating children from a young age about the various issues specifically around CSA?

As for the media, how often is sexual abuse tackled in soaps and magazines, and where are the regular and realistic representations of survivors?

But in addition to major institutions like the media and the government, the onus is on us as individuals, who after all, make up society.

Just as the entertainment industry colluded with Jimmy Savile by providing a culture of silence, it can be argued that we as a society are also guilty of colluding with abusers in a sense. By not taking the one in four statistic seriously, and by allowing a social climate to exist that renders it taboo for those affected by child sexual abuse to speak about it freely.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A female US soldier eats breakfast while on tour in Afghanistan  

All’s fair in love and war? Not until female soldiers can join the men on the front line

Rosie Millard
 

Errors & Omissions: Bankers in cahoots in a cabin with their cohorts

Guy Keleny
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas