There has been much media comment on this week’s BBC2 Savile documentary, where Louis Theroux bravely reflected on his much publicised previous contact and friendship with Jimmy Savile. Filmed nearly five years after Savile’s death, Theroux set out to explore how someone so much in public eye could dupe those around him. Whilst it is understandable that the victims he preyed upon felt unable to expose the true Savile, it would be naïve to believe that his colleagues, friends and associates had no concerns over his behaviour. Indeed, as the footage from the first Theroux documentary revealed he blatantly displayed inappropriate behaviour in public settings which was not questioned or challenged.
But that is the MO of the abuser. They are coercive, exert control and have the ability to manipulate those around them to believe challenge unthinkable. Even an investigative reporter of Theroux’s calibre was, as a victim described, “hoodwinked”.
What this documentary demonstrates is that, without a sense of collective responsibility and sharing of information, working in silos enables perpetrators to exploit. As many child abuse cases have shown, infrastructures for multi-agency information sharing are still not robust. Current models must be further developed to enable everyone to feel confident in reacting to child abuse. Only then will we move away from a blame culture, which impacts negatively on information sharing, to clear accountability.
Sadly, even though Dame Janet Smith’s report revealed 72 people were sexually abused by Saville whilst he was employed by the BBC, there will be no criminal investigation of the damming and disturbing evidence of his victims and they are left to come to terms with this. Although clearly disturbed by his own failure to question Savile’s behaviour sixteen years ago, one must praise Theroux for the honesty portrayed in his new documentary. Like many people left in a similar situation he will undoubtedly continue to ask himself should I have done more?