CareKnowledge editor Jim Kennedy considers the wider safeguarding implications of the joint NSPCC/Met Police report 'Giving Victims a Voice':
This week I’m blogging on the report on Operation Yewtree – the investigation of allegations against Jimmy Savile, and I’m less concerned with summarising its contents – and more concerned with some of the wider issues the report raises.
I have to say at the outset that I have some concerns about the decision taken – because of the volume of allegations made, the lack of connection between those making allegations and the picture of predatory sexual behaviour uncovered – to refer to the people concerned as ‘victims’ rather than ‘complainants’, with the connotation of certain guilt that that implies.
This was, in part, a police investigation, and a principle is a principle. There are dangers for us all – children and adults alike – in moderating the principle that guilt can only be ascribed as a result of a successful conviction. Blurring that line is likely to do none of us any favours in the long run.
I make this point partly because I believe that the important lessons to be learned from these events stand just as well, without having to somehow ‘convict’ a dead person. The first thing is the need to be clear about a similar principle – a child is always a child. They can never, not be, a child. So, what is done with or to them, by adults can never be seen outside of that context.
The second is the need to listen to, and take what children say, seriously. Much will be seen to have changed since the peak of Jimmy Savile’s activities, but in relation to these two principles, events in Rochdale show that there is still some way to go in ensuring that these key principles are understood, acted on, and applied to all children.
The third thing the allegations seem to confirm is the ability of people (men in particular) to exercise power over those under their influence; and to use that power for wholly inappropriate purposes – providing an echo of much that has been learned about abuse in care situations – and about earlier periods of time when children were seen as the relatively powerless possessions of adults.
The fourth thing the allegations appear to confirm is the way groups and institutions can support, or fail to prevent, abuse. Here, some of the most recent echoes are again, with Rochdale, and with the care of vulnerable adults (in Winterbourne View).
And, it’s in relation to institutions and institutional norms and behaviours that some of the most worrying lessons emerge. Whilst the BBC looks at why Jimmy Savile’s activities were never fully investigated there, I am personally more concerned that a number of the children involved were identified as vulnerable, and appear to have been abused, in the very health and care services that we might have assumed, would protect them.
So, although the scale of the current investigations, mark this out as a very special case, these lessons learned – and many others – have current implications right across the safeguarding spectrum…