The Blame Game
I saw a headline in a newspaper the other day about Jimmy Saville. Sorry for bleating on about the whole Saville affair, by the way, I will make my reasons for that clearer in a minute. Anyway, to recap/update: Jimmy Saville is a deceased DJ and TV presenter. He died a much loved eccentric, but he now faces post mortem accusations of child abuse stretching back up to four decades over as many as 300 people. The BBC was his employer for fifty years, and many of the abuses allegedly took place on their property, so they are being considered in some way responsible. There was a brief story which suggested that an unnamed Prime Minister was in some way involved. This has enabled the paper to blame the BBC and the Government and scream that 'you're paying their wages!' Oh, Goody.
So, as usual, it's THEIR FAULT. It doesn't matter much who 'they' are, just as long as ‘they' are somebody who isn't you. And by 'you', I don't mean you specifically, but the public generally. It wasn't their fault. So I'd like to start by getting a couple of helpful little blame
facts sorted. Fact one: any abuse was the fault of the abuser. Some abusers were abused themselves, and I don't particularly subscribe to simplistic moralising, but they did the abusing and they are responsible for their own actions, unless proven otherwise. Meanwhile, the person who is unequivocally not to blame is the victim. There is no argument here – they didn't ask for it, encourage it, allow it to happen, they were in a position where they could be controlled and manipulated, and that is what happened to them.
After that, blame becomes somewhat trickier. Sometimes people know the abuse is happening and chose, for whatever reason, not to say anything. They would seem culpable on the face of it, but the motivations for people's behaviour in these scenarios can be very complex, even when you only understand them from a layman's point of view (i.e. mine). Plenty of people didn't know, but might have done. Can you blame them? In the 21st century we are far more aware of the prospect of abuse, of grooming and mistreatment. We have some idea of what to look for, and some idea that we should be looking for it at all. The reason abuse was ever able to take place was because there was an implicit trust in priests, doctors, family members and others. The
horrible irony is that it has taken child abuse, and horrendous amount of it, to expose the fact that there is no group of people who can definitely be trusted. People have to be trusted individually, and, sadly, people can only be demonstrated to be untrustworthy by doing something horrible. This is another bald and hard-to-face fact – you can't tell someone is a child molester until they molest a child. Well that might be a trifle simplistic, but the resources simply don't exist to
subject everyone in the world to complex psycho-analysis before they are allowed near children.
Anyway, I promised I would explain why this issue obsessed me somewhat, and that was ages ago. I mentioned it before, but to reiterate, my wife was abused when she was a child. I have spent ten years (to date) helping her come to terms with this. I've read books, listened to her nightmares, and recently we have started going to a help group where I meet various other people and hear what they have suffered. So I get, I'm afraid to say, more than a trifle tetchy with
people who are simply making noisy headlines to sell newspapers giving everyone the impression that we can palm off the blame on paedos and they big organisations and we can all go on doing what we did before because it's fine.
Well, I'm sorry, but that's not what I'm asking you. I'm asking you to understand. Go and read a book, if you can stomach it. I don't blame you if you can't, it's really horrible stuff, some of it. If you can't face that, you might read my wife's account from The Post in October 2006. Ultimately, what I want us all, as a collective society (which we are, remember?) is two things. Firstly, we need to stop blaming people who didn't specifically
do it, unless correcting their action, or inaction, can in some way prevent, or reduce the risk of, it happening again. Secondly, and most importantly, we need to turn, en masse, to the survivors of child abuse and say ‘We're all so sorry this happened to you in our community – how can we help make it better?'