Voiceless Girls

Journal Column
Kate Fox
October 5th 2012

Jimmy

It was uncomfortable viewing when one of Jimmy Savile’s friends was asked how he responded to the allegations about him. “First”, he huffed “Just one thing. You don’t speak ill of the dead”. I internally begged the presenter to say- what, not about Hitler? but she didn’t. It would have been awkward anyway, what with her having hosted a special glowing report from Savile’s funeral. This came a week after it emerged that Police didn’t follow up reports from Rochdale girls saying they were being abused by members of a gang because Social Services said prostitution was a valid “Life style choice”. The awkward truth is that the most likely victims of sexual abuse are young working class women. The victims Police are least likely to believe are young working class women. Sometimes it’s even made into a game on the telly so we can all watch. Though it becomes even harder to convince people they weren’t asking for it really when a telephone voting line number comes up under their name on the screen. Anyway, in case anybody’s being cautious, you might not want to speak ill of the dead but libel laws stopped applying to Jimmy Savile the minute he shuffled off his last mortal gold shellsuit. Raising millions for charity doesn’t excuse somebody being an inveterate paedophile. He may not be able to speak for himself now, but at last the voices of his victims can be heard. We should listen. We might learn something.

Runaway

The cultural contrast between France and here was brought home by attitudes to the Megan Stammers case. You could almost hear the Gallic shrug of the lawyer’s shoulders as he described Jeremy Oates’ “Romantic disappointment”. 21 years earlier, I’d run away to France with an older man when I was 16. The story splashed on local front pages but luckily I was found just before it made the nationals. I never went home again though, my parents didn’t want me to and I didn’t want to go back. I don’t think teenagers leave home if they’re actually happy there in the first place. I went back to the school I’d left, sucked up the humiliation and whispers, which eventually died down, lived in a bedsit, got on with my A Levels and eventually got over my first disastrous relationship, though it took years and years before I could see how exploitative it had been. I hope that once the Police have finished prodding her, the press have finished photographing her and her parents have told the papers how ecstatic they are, that Megan is listened to and supported, and that any other issues that led her to rely on a 30 year old bloke are taken seriously. That talking about it can go beyond the titillation of “She led him on” or “She was besotted”. As we’ve seen elsewhere, amid the school defending itself and all the other voices weighing in, the one that’s least likely to be heard on it’s own terms is the most vulnerable. Whatever Megan Stammers was trying to say by leaving home like that, please let somebody be ready to hear it properly and respond with something more meaningful than a British wink or a Gallic shrug.

The Compulsory Geordie

I’m the compulsory Geordie,
on a reality show.
See me perform, watch me go.
Maybe I’ll win,
maybe I’ll lose,
Maybe they’ll film me
gone on booze.
I’m the Compulsory Geordie
on a reality show,
they know you’ll phone and vote for me.
Like the Scots and the Scousers
my presence on here
is a money making guarantee.

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