Friday, January 11, 2013

Does being groped by a dirty old man make you a victim?

No, not if you don't want to be.

Today's news about the Savile report includes the information that "214 crimes were recorded across 28 police force areas, including 34 of rape or penetration". The latter were obviously the most serious offences, but many others went no further than groping or touching inappropriately. A large proportion of the UK population, mainly women, will have experienced that at some time in their lives. In early puberty, I was groped by a Sunday school teacher who'd given me a lift home. I made sure that I never accepted a lift from him again. With hindsight, I wonder if he abused his daughter, who was the same age as me. It didn't leave me feeling traumatised. I haven't suffered years of torment over it. I doubt very much that many of those who had the misfortune to come into contact with Jimmy Savile were permanently emotionally scarred by the experience, though they may still feel aggrieved that their complaints were ignored, if they did complain.

Since all this has come to light after Savile died and denied anyone the satisfaction of a prosecution, TV pundits have said that the only redress that most of Savile's victims have is a claim for compensation, if they can decide who to claim from - the estate, the BBC, or one of the other institutions involved? How much is a grope worth? The money might come in handy for some of the people involved. But are they all "victims"? If they are, so are the thousands of others who've been the object of unwelcome sexual attention, from other schoolchildren, work colleagues, drunks in pubs. The list is endless. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

As the NSPCC has reported, children are more likely to be sexually abused by people of their own age than by adults. It would be unhealthy to regard themselves as victims because media stories encourage it. If they did, we'd have far too many of them.

PS

After I'd written the above, I found a blog post via Twitter from Louise Jones. She was groped, touched up, fondled, by strange men several times, before she realised that it's OK to "Make him cry and call the police. Make the biggest fuss you possibly can." The important thing is not to just sit or stand (or lie) there, but make a big fuss. As Louise says, this sort of thing really is very common. Time to change that.

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