Jim’ll fix it

When I was 8 years old and living in England, I wrote a letter to Jimmy Savile asking if I could be on his TV show. His name may mean nothing to you, but imagine an English Mr. Rogers and you’ll have it just about right.

Photo ©REX
Photo ©REX

When I was 8 years old and living in England, I wrote a letter to Jimmy Savile asking if I could be on his TV show. His name may mean nothing to you, but imagine an English Mr. Rogers and you’ll have it just about right.

Savile, who died in 2011, was one of the most dearly loved TV personalities in England for decades. He hosted several of British Broadcasting Corporation’s shows, but it was through his kids’ program, Jim’ll Fix It, that he made thousands of children’s dreams come true. They would write him a letter asking him to grant them a wish, and every week the rest of us would watch in envy as one lucky recipient got just that. We all hoped against hope that we’d be the next one.

Today we’re incredibly thankful we weren’t.

It’s come to light that over the six decades that he worked for the BBC, Savile sexually abused hundreds of children and raped more than 30 people—the majority of the abused were girls between the ages of 13 and 16. Many of the incidents occurred on the show’s premises. Fifty of the allegations, according to the police report, related to “hospital premises including hospices” and another 14 from schools, “including a reform school that he visited regularly.”

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and blessed by Pope John Paul II for his extensive charity work, Savile was regarded as one of England’s greatest philanthropists, and it was under this cloak of fame and celebrity that he preyed upon, and destroyed the lives of, hundreds of children.

Nine-year-old Kevin Cook was one of them. He told CNN that when his scout troop was chosen to go on the show, they couldn’t believe it. “He was almost God-like,” Cook said. “He was the person every child, certainly, wanted to know.” After the taping, Cook presented Savile with a tie as a present, at which point, he said, the icon took him backstage to give him his own Jim’ll Fix It badge.

Savile asked him if he wanted to “earn” his badge, and then proceeded to molest him.

Cook said that Savile was interrupted when someone opened the door, peeked in, apologized and left. That’s when he said Savile turned to him with this threat: “Don’t you dare tell anyone about this. No one will believe you because I’m King Jimmy. Don’t tell your mates. We know where you live.”

Cook and hundreds like him remained silent for years. He’d never even told his wife. Because, well, who on earth would take his word against that of the most beloved man in England?

Even had it only been one child, Savile would have deserved to rot in jail. But the fact that there were so many is unspeakable. Dumbfounding. Undoubtedly there were people who knew what was happening and never breathed a word—the fact that someone peeked in and apologized is sickening. They had the power to protect and instead covered their eyes.

Furthermore, in 2007 and 2008, while Savile was still alive, the police received four complaints of sexual abuse from young girls. One of them, eerily, was from Sussex County (where I once lived). According to authorities, the police didn’t pursue the complaints, but treated them with “a degree of caution which was neither justified nor required.”

It is unforgivable that one person, one human being, could wield so much power, and that he was freely allowed to prey on children when there were adults everywhere who could have stopped it. Now, none of the victims will ever see him brought to justice.

The BBC says it will investigate whether their “culture and practices” allowed this to happen. Forget the investigation. That book is open and shut. When hundreds of England’s smallest, most vulnerable citizens are victims to such a predator, there is something horribly wrong—it doesn’t take an investigator to know that.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. We idolize celebrities and raise them up on pedestals that don’t belong to them, believing them incapable of such horrors. If we’d just take a moment and step back from our worship, we’d see their excrement smells just as bad as anyone else’s. That is, if we even believe they do that.

“It paints a stark picture, emphasizing the tragic consequences of when vulnerability and power collide,” Commander Peter Spindler of the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police told CNN.

“Stark” is an understatement.

I pray for every child who, like me, scrawled, “Dear Jim,” but who got the answer they’d waited for their entire short lives—and will spend the rest of them wishing they hadn’t.