Different countries, same scandal
A beloved, seemingly benign public figure is found to have been a serial child predator, engaging in deviant behavior for decades without ever facing justice.
Jerry Sandusky? Yes, but also Jimmy Savile, a British television personality who, over the course of at least 50 years, was found to have sexually abused hundreds of children of both genders. As with the Sandusky scandal here, the discovery of Savile’s crimes, and the stunning extent of them, has launched a round of soul-searching across the pond on why so many people looked the other way and how Savile’s celebrity insulated him from greater scrutiny.
The host of “Top of the Pops,” the British equivalent of “American Bandstand,” Savile was an eccentric, cigar-smoking man-child with a wisp of long, thinning hair who won laurels for his charitable work, just like Sandusky. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and won honors from Pope John Paul II. Savile seemed above reproach.
But, according to a police report issued last week, Savile carried out a sickening string of assaults at schools and hospitals where he was invited as a goodwill ambassador. Savile, who died in 2011 a few days shy of his 85th birthday, is said to have raped at least 34 people over the years and, according to The Guardian newspaper, “used every opportunity and every institution to which he had access because of his fame to target young people.”
The fact Savile also was able to carry out his misdeeds in plain sight must provide cold comfort to all the people who looked the other way as Sandusky was victimizing a succession of vulnerable boys. The inability to see the obvious is not unique. And, just like Sandusky, there were whispers over the years that Savile was up to no good, but no action was taken.
Sandusky and Savile were separated by an ocean, but both scandals impart the same hard lessons on trust, vigilance and institutional failure.
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