THE BLOG

Savile: Celebrity Scandal Should Not Overshadow Abuse Victims' Pain

26/02/2015 14:34 GMT | Updated 27/04/2015 10:59 BST

For years, it seems like there hasn't been a time when allegations of child sexual abuse against a celebrity haven't been in the headlines. While scandalous details of VIP duplicity sell papers, the focus of these cases should not be the abusers: the pain and needs of their victims cannot be overshadowed or ignored. We must recognise that whether abuse took place yesterday or 40 years ago, those who have suffered must be listened to and know that when they come forward, action will be taken.

With hope, today's publication of reports by charities and local authorities regarding Jimmy Savile will enhance this recognition. As directed by the Department for Education, 18 organisations are publishing the outcomes of investigations about the celebrity's role, if any, at their schools and children's homes. With this collection of documents, the department hopes to see what lessons can be learned from the past to ensure more children are protected from these heinous crimes, going forward.

Having started as a children's home over 145 years ago, Action for Children has a lot of experience with keeping children in care safe. Despite this expertise, we are never complacent. Alongside colleagues, we continue to develop practice every day, both through innovation and drawing on lessons learned, to protect children. Just last year, we spoke to young people in care and, based on what they said, created guidance for professionals to help develop children's emotional resilience and a new Action for Children model for delivering residential care. Based on the young people's views, both have a strong emphasis on building and sustaining relationships with children. Arming young people with this kind of confidence helps them successfully manage risks and ultimately keep themselves safe.

To develop our new approaches, young people in care told us what qualities they valued most in professionals working with them. Top of the list was a stable and consistent relationship to help teach them to develop friendships in the future. They also said building trust and increasing their feelings of self-worth would allow them to open up about difficult behaviour they might be experiencing. The young people added, of course, that listening to and communicating with them was essential.

When dealing with cases of sexual abuse, these qualities are crucial: the first step towards protecting children is to listen to and believe those who tell us, through their behaviour as well as words, that they are not safe. We must act upon concerns as soon as they arise, ensuring no child's cry is left unheeded.

With hope, the Government's publication of the Savile reports will emphasise the importance - to children, adults working with children and those who may have suffered abuse in the past - of both listening and speaking out. No one should face the terrors of abuse alone.

Action for Children's investigation found that Jimmy Savile visited our Penhurst School on one occasion in the 1970s, to open a fete. There is no evidence that he frequently visited the school, that he had contact with individual children or that anything untoward happened on the single occasion he is known to have visited.