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

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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Buddy & Team Leader / Buddy

£11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To join a team working with a female in her ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would ramp up Britain's spending on science

Paul Nurse
A family remain in the open for the third night following the 7.8 quake in Nepal  

Nepal earthquake: Mobs of looters roam the camps and the smell of burning flesh fills the air, but still we survive

Bidushi Dhungel
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence