Jimmy Savile and workplace culture today

 

The Metropolitan Police's Operation Yew Tree is looking at eight allegations against Sir Jimmy Savile

When I was a cub reporter on my local newspaper in the late 1970s, I returned from the magistrates court with what I thought was a front page story. A councillor had appeared on charges of sexual assault on young girls, an alleged abuse of power that had left me shocked.

But my disgust turned to outrage when the news editor told me they wouldn't be running the story. "Our readers don't want to hear about that kind of thing," he said. I remember he used the word "paedophilia" - a term I hadn't heard before. Whatever it meant, it was not a subject deemed worthy of space in that evening's paper.

It is a reminder of just how attitudes have changed. Many readers will recall how, 40 or 50 years ago, children were warned about the uncle with "wandering hands", the local flasher who hung around the playground or the PE teacher who took particular pleasure in getting small boys to do naked press-ups (that happened at my school).

But all too rarely were these kinds of concerns taken to the authorities. In fact, one suspects that the police would have regarded accusations of such improper behaviour as domestic or trivial. Rather like my news editor, the desk sergeant would probably have shrugged and suggested the complainant worried about proper crime.

The Jimmy Savile story takes the sexual politics of the present day and applies them to another age. The teenage groupies in the 60s and 70s who hung around the pop scene, hoping a bit of the glamour and excitement would rub off onto their own lives, were entering very dangerous territory - a world where sexual liberation was colliding with traditional power structures.

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Many career women over the age of 50 will have a story of being touched up or groped by some senior colleague at work”

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It is obvious now that many young lives were seriously damaged by powerful men who took advantage of the new freedoms and opportunities, exploiting their position without thought for their responsibilities. The sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll philosophy glorified hedonic pleasure, living for the moment and to hell with the consequences.

But consequences there were for the victims, if not for the perpetrators.

Today, of course, the word paedophilia is a familiar term in the news lexicon. Those found guilty of crossing the boundaries face the full force of public condemnation as well as the full force of the law. There is nothing trivial or domestic about the sexual assault or rape of children.

A similar cultural change can be seen with the sexual politics of the office. Many career women over the age of 50 will have a story of being touched up or groped by some senior colleague at work. From the 60s until relatively recently, there existed a pervasive attitude that unwanted sexual advances were an irritant rather than a disciplinary matter or a crime.

1960s office life Has office life improved for women since the 1960s?

Although the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 did provide some protection for women in the workplace, it was not until the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 that employers were obliged to take seriously the issue of female staff being bullied or sexually harassed in the office.

Bosses covered their legal obligations by introducing equal opportunities policies and training sessions, requiring staff to discuss and consider the meaning of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the work-place. I think this open debate had a much bigger impact on male behaviour in the office than the threat of legal action.

The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations of 2005 provided clear protection for any woman subjected to "unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating her dignity or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her".

The TUC has said that law means "that if, for example, a colleague persists in making remarks about what nice legs a female employee has, or her boss promises her promotion if she goes away with him for the weekend, she should be able to claim that this is sexual harassment".

Legislation Aim

Sex Discrimination Act 1975

To protect women and men from discrimination on the grounds of sex or marriage - established the Equal Opportunities Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

To criminalise stalking and bullying in the workplace, and to make employers vicariously liable for harassment claims by employees

Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005

To introduce new definitions of indirect discrimination and harassment, and prohibit discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave

At the time these laws were being debated, there were plenty of voices arguing they were unnecessary - more red tape binding business from the "right-on brigade". Today, I suspect few people would demand the repeal of such legislation. Office politics has changed markedly over recent decades.

So, again, when considering the lecherous behaviour of disc jockeys and other pop celebrities in the past, we need to remember the cultural framework within which it happened. That is not to excuse the boorish, thoughtless or vile activities of powerful men who should have known better.

But it is a reminder of how far we have come and how recent some of those changes have been. We sometimes fail to notice how civilizing forces are improving people's behaviour.

Anyone with information into these allegations - or who needs support on the issues raised in this article - can call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk, or call their local police station by dialling 101.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 475.

    People shouldnt blame none reporting of crime against them as the fault of others, it is our collective problem, we need as a society to encourage people to be open and honest and tell the Police about this kind of crime even though there are cases of similar offences carried out by Police officers, but we have to have faith in the system or we will allow this kind of offence to be openly repeated

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 474.

    It's no an excuse to say that the alleged events happened as far back as the 1960s while it is true attitudes may have been different 40 years ago, that's no excuse. So Mark, you are way out of line here. You should listen to Lord Patton. He agrees with me. So put my comments at 370 back up please.
    Oops, the BBC have removed another of my comments. I just might have a word with Lord Patton.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 473.

    The BBC continues to make programmes that portray stereotypes. In the past we had - Man about the House, The Liver 'Birds', Carry on up the whatever’.... Black Men described as chalky and Gay men everything that is none horizontal or vertical.
    Today though, we have Josh - a gay boy in Waterloo road, he became a drug addict and schizophrenic. - Well that's what we deserve, isn't it!

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 472.

    This article is appalling, it smacks of the BBC trying to play things down and shows how little the BBc think of their readers.

    It is obviouse what this article sets out to do and you should be ashamed to have put it up on the website.

    It does not smell like a breath of fresh air but the cesspit it is !

    Howw stupid do you think your readers are ? It reads like jeremy clarkson wrote it .

  • Comment number 471.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 470.

    467. Swing Lowe

    Isn't it funny that these claims have all come out when Saville is not around to defend himself?

    How much money is his estate worth?
    +++
    Theres nothing funny about a culture of fear and intimidation that allows this sort of thing go unreported, if you think people are only making these claims to make money you are contributing to the cover up.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 469.

    The BBC has form.

    - Another abuse they allowed during the 1980's were the systematic lies, propaganda and bias when it came to reporting the Miners Strike.
    The State broadcaster said the Miners attacked the Police, but it was my defenceless, unarmed Father that came home black and blue from the picket line whilst fighting to keep his job, and our family together.

    When do WE get an apology?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 468.

    The problem with 'under aged groupies' is that while they may be acting under their own volition. They are still under the age of consent and it is therefore up to the adult to to determine whether they are of sufficient age to have sex. Therefore in cases of people like this with Jimmy Savile it apparent that any attempt to determine age was never sought.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 467.

    None reporting of an offence of this nature is a danger to all of us, what punishment can be given to people who don't report crime of this nature.

    Isn't it funny that these claims have all come out when Saville is not around to defend himself?

    How much money is his estate worth?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 466.

    Revolted to see HYS contributors boasting that they *have known of this situation for 20 years* ... Shame on you all! If you truly had information about sexual assaults and failed to report them to the BBC, or the police, you should be in prison. If you have no actual direct proof, you are merely listening to hearsay, and you're a nasty idle gossip!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 465.

    In 1993 rape here in marriage became illegal, yet up and until then, once a women agreed to be married her body, her soul became the man’s property, I do not have to ask any right minded person how wrong this was! Yet in institutions such as the media it is almost impossible to do anything about abuse, due to the undemocratic power they hold, enough is enough, either bow out or be ousted.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 464.

    There is more to come out about Savile. Utterly convinced about that having lived in Leeds for a number of years and hearing rumours, stories and allegations (that's all they were) with such consistent content I find it hard to believe that we now have anything near the full story.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 463.

    Jimmy Saville = Establishment. BBC = Establishment


    First Establishment rule.


    - Keep it in the Family!

  • Comment number 462.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 461.

    I used to work with a lot of guys between the 1960's and 2008 & there were some who would at least try to cross the line. I was never intimidated by them, had anyone tried to touch me they wouldn't have liked the response. Verbal smutt never bothered me, I would make a joke of it & when they saw that it didn't bother me they stopped doing it. As for J Saville, I always thought he looked devious.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 460.

    One of my sisters friends worked as a nurse for one of the Leeds (I think it was) hospitals. I recall her (many years ago) telling my sister that many of the nurses dreaded when JS would visit. As he was always trying to "coerce" a nurse into the store room for some "fun".

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 459.

    The reality is that real people have been wronged and people in responsible positions have looked the other way.

    Unfortunately we are going to have to suffer the public outpouring of famous people admitting they knew things weren't right but they weren't strong enough to make a stand when they could make a real difference.

    Its a real shame!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 458.

    I started work in 1974. I worked in the NHS for 35 years and I never experienced the kind of culture described in BBC light entertainment.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 457.

    456. depressedByIdiocy
    +++
    Go to the police.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 456.

    The cultural aspect is not an excuse, but it is real and (was) pervasive. Aged 35 in 2012 I can well believe a paradigm shift was needed. I've had similar issues in the last 15 years from one of my and my father's colleagues, and my parents have either told me I'm hysterically making up stories, or told me I'm a slut who must have led this lovely man on. Colleagues think the man is vile, I agree.

 

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