You’re probably expecting a punchline now, right? Alas I’m being serious (besides I can’t think of one). I’m going to talk about abuse, so if this upsets you don’t read this post.
Jackson was accused of child abuse, as is Savile. There were many who came forward regarding Jackson, and money changed hands at times which is suspicious, yet somehow Jackson survived in a way it doesn’t look like Savile will (perhaps his family should start throwing money around?).
So what did Jackson have that Savile doesn’t (apart from wealth, or a pulse during the trial!)
Part of what enabled the public to forgive Jackson was surely that the guy was mental! He was chronically effete, deluded and most essentially, childlike. Jackson was ill, emotionally trapped in a bizzarre childhood he had never been able to grow out of. Probably. At the very least this was the image we were given.
Savile on the other hand is seen as ‘normal’, at least in terms of his mental state. I’m not wholly convinced of this – his behaviour in some ways being quite disturbing, but his ‘weirdness’ was never quite so blatant as with Jackson.
It seems we can forgive more easily if we think the person doing bad things is doing them because they are deluded, broken, perhaps themselves a victim of a ‘bad childhood’. Jackson could weather the storm because people essentially saw him as a child and a victim.
Now, this next point is subtle, so for all you Sun and Daily Mail readers out there, please go to this address instead as you won’t understand my next argument :
Anyone else, read on.
Am I mad, or is it not safe to assume that anyone who wants to have sex with children is mentally ill? Unlike Jackson, Jimmy Savile may not have talked like a helium-sucking chipmunk with his balls in a vice, but he was clearly not well. His actions are evidence enough.
Presently our attempts to address sexual abuse seem to be about as effective as our war on drugs. Millions are spent and yet there is no change in the level of incidence (e.g. levels of abuse have not changed since the register was introduced). This seems to indicate that we are not getting it right.
Somewhere along the line an abuser decides that children like sex. This is clearly not true. But the person still believes that children want and enjoy sex like adults do. They believe something that is not true. Evidence does not seem to effect their belief. This sounds like a definition for metal illness to me.
Our other choice is that someone knows children don’t want sex, but forces them to do it anyway. They are willing to sacrifice a child’s well-being for their own brief gratification. Most likely the unwillingness is itself part of what the abuser enjoys. This sounds like a metal illness worse than the first.
The press, and others, continually ask “how a good man could do such bad things.” Savile’s behaviour makes no sense. But does it make no sense because of our view?
If we see Savile as a ‘mentally fit’ man who did good and bad we get lost and confused and distressed. But what if we saw Savile as a man with a mental illness? Michael Jackson never grew up and it led him to some very odd and possibly harmful behaviours. Others grow up damaged and become addicted to drugs, some grow up violent, some steal, others are more subtle, sociopathic or just ‘quietly dysfunctional’. Whatever the case they do not have the ability to cope with life in a healthy way, and resort to harmful ways instead. Perhaps some never grow-up sexually, or develop other psycho-sexual disorders.
Seen in this light the Savile case makes more sense. It remains horrific, the acts and our failure to prevent or report them, but how ‘a good man could do so much bad’ is explainable.
Maybe viewing abusers as mentally ill might help us to respond more effectively and actually help reduce sexual crime.
I use my experience in counselling to think differently about abuse HERE.