Many of Jimmy Savile’s victims still have not told family of abuse
Many who did tell relatives were laughed at, according to NSPCC research
Jimmy Savile showing off his OBE in 1972. Only a tiny number of his victims immediately raised the alarm with hospital staff or family, according to a new NSPCC report. Photograph: Leslie Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
A significant number of those abused by Jimmy Savile – some of them more than 50 years ago – still have not told family or friends about it, even though they have co-operated with a police investigation.
Decades on, victims can remember Savile’s smell, while many of those who did tell relatives or friends – before Savile’s years of abuse were exposed – were laughed at, according to Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
The children’s rights group were put in contact by British police with those who had given statements to Operation Yewtree – the investigation set up into Savile’s abuse more than a year after his death.
The effect of the abuse is still acute: “They were able to recall with ease and precision details such as the clothes they were wearing, the exact location in which the abuse occurred, the smell of Jimmy Savile and the last words he said to them.
“These lasting memories, coupled with the fact that many participants have never spoken of the abuse, appears to have, for some, had a profound impact,” according to the report, Would They Actually Have Believed Me ?
Many have not told family or friends, while those who have encountered “a mixed response”, with some getting support, while others were dismissed: “Everyone found it hilarious so eventually I just stopped talking about it,” one told the inquiry.
Only a tiny number of the victims – who were aged between eight and 26 when Savile assaulted them in hospitals, care-centres, backstage at entertainment venues, or in his gold-painted Rolls Royce – immediately raised the alarm with hospital staff or family.
“Regardless of who the disclosure was made to, all perceived there to have been no action or follow-up, and a number remembered how people had laughed at them, or had minimised what had happened, and had suggested that they should feel ‘lucky’ that someone like Jimmy Savile had paid them attention,” the report said.
Less than a third of those approached by the NSPCC agreed to to take part in the research. The rest said they were unable to because they “were still suffering from the emotional trauma caused by the abuse”.
Most thought Savile would have been believed over them, since he “was a powerful and influential adult, who was seen as a ‘charitable, good guy’, raising a lot of money for charity.
“This led to feelings of helplessness and inferiority in his victims,” said the report, adding some felt guilty because the abuse was “their fault”, while others feared their parents would beat them if they disclosed what had happened.
Saying that the way victims were first treated made for “heart-rending reading”, NSPCC director of national services Peter Watt said: “They were ignored, dismissed, not believed, laughed at and astonishingly told in some cases they should feel lucky he had paid them attention.”
Media coverage of Savile’s lifetime of abuse helped many to come forward to give statements to Operation Yewtree, but equally its scale and duration left many fearful they would be “outed” as victims.