Charities have big questions to answer and big decisions to face, says Ian Macrae
Charities have big questions to answer and big decisions to face, says Ian Macrae.
Although there are a number of things to preoccupy us as disabled people at present, ultimately, for this blog post I have to go to the Savile story.
It's unquestionable that some, probably many of his victims, were disabled people. These would have included patients at Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor hospitals. But his involvement with other disability charities means there are likely to have been many others.
Jimmy Savile's former Radio 1 colleague Paul Gambaccini has described how the DJ "Hid in plain sight". This is only partially true. He certainly used his celebrity and his personality - that weird mix of the bland and the brash - to mask his nefarious predatory sexual activity. It's also true that many people who worked with him, knew him, or even those like me who worked on the relative fringes of the radio and TV industry, knew or knew of the rumours.
But there was another part of this highly compartmentalised life. In this part, Savile used his association with charities for two purposes. First, it provided massive opportunities for self-publicity for this massive self-publicist: he could never be said to have hidden his light under a bushel. Then, on the darker side, he used his charitable activity to gain access to the victims - never a word we like to use for people in our community - on whom he prayed to an extent that can't really even be guessed at.
Some of those young people who were abused by him will never be able to tell their stories for reasons either of trauma or because of communication issues; that's just one reason why we will never know the true extent of what he perpetrated.
But perhaps even more than for the BBC, there are serious questions to be asked of charities with whom he had direct dealings or relationships. There are also wider issues which other charities must recognise and take account of.
There's evidence from Broadmoor and Stoke Mandeville that others were at least complicit in what Savile was up to. Were there others in other institutions and organisations who were similarly complicit in the sexual abuse of disabled people who were relying on them for support? There has to be a suspicion that the answer is yes.
In the wider charitable world, big questions have to be investigated concerning the wooing of celebrities and the acceptance of patronage, endorsement and (as with Savile) direct funding from their efforts. If charities buy into deals like that, then they have to accept that their could well be a price to pay. It's not that every celeb is a Savile, but they will often come with their own agendas, demands or things on which they will not compromise. That in turn means that the best that the charity can hope for is that it may have to concede some of its principles. At worst, as with Jimmy Savile, those running the organisation might find themselves sacrificing their own consciences and the safety of their constituents.
Truly, it's said: if you sup with the devil, be sure to use a long spoon.