Tuesday, 23 October 2012

When instincts let you down

There is a lot being said at the moment about Jimmy Savile and the allegations of sexual abuse... and more worryingly the possible existence of a paedophile ring that had operated within the BBC.

As a child growing up with Jim'll Fix It entering our living room through our TV screen, I never liked Jimmy Savile. There was just something about him. With the benefit of my experience as an adult and looking back at the overfamiliarity he exhibited with young people involved in his shows as part of his presenting style, I can see that my child self's instinct was not wildly wrong.

But what happens when that instinct lets you down?

I like to think I am a reasonably good judge of character and can spot a 'bad' person when I see one. I like to think I can protect my children from such people. I have found out that this is not always the case.

I knew a man who I liked very much. He was a bit rough and ready to the extreme that you might call him a thug if you didn't know him (or even if you did!). The self inked tattoos on his knuckles did rather emphasise this aspect of his character. I knew that he had been in trouble with the police for violent behaviour in the past but he had done his time, paid the price and I do believe that people deserve second chances. I judged him not on his past or his appearance but in the way he treated me. He made me laugh, he was full of life, he seemed very down to earth and I had no reason to suspect that he was not doing his best for his family within his means. He seemed to me a decent 'what you see is what you get' sort of bloke.

I liked him well enough to ask him and his wife to be Godparents to one of my daughters. I respected his honesty when he said that he didn't believe in the God bit but would be honoured to do it if I was prepared to overlook that. I am not a religious person in the traditional sense so it was not a problem. For me it was all about celebrating the network of support from family and friends that is so important in life.

Geography separated us so I only saw him on rare occasions but when I did, I enjoyed his company.

I was saddened when he and his wife divorced and surprised when details of their life emerged that contradicted the impression I had forged of him. I never saw him again after the divorce but held onto the idea that there are two sides to every story and hoped that wherever he was and whatever he was doing, he was happy.

I should not have wasted good thoughts in his direction.

This week, he appeared in court to plead guilty to charges of child abuse and was sentenced to 9 years in prison.

I feel so desperately sorry, not just for the victims of the abuse, but for the families that have been left devastated by one man's evil. I sincerely hope that they are able to find closure and move on with their lives now that justice, such as it is, has been served.

It is hard for me to admit that I liked this man capable of such behaviour. We surmised that being a convicted paedophile negates any Godfatherly duties or promises made in the house of God.

The Jimmy Savile case obviously has implications that are much more far reaching and the thought that he never had to face the consequences of his perverse actions is appalling

I can only hope that as a society we can learn some valuable lessons about how to protect our children. My experience has certainly taught me that you can't always spot a paedophile but I do not want to live in a constant state of suspicion and project fear onto my children. I want my children to know right from wrong and feel empowered to speak up if they are made to feel uncomfortable in any way. It does not seem like much in the way of armour but it is all I have to give.

I have to keep reminding myself that there are many more good people in the world than there are bad. It is just a shame that the few bad ones do so much damage.

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