Complaint ignored for decades, heard at last

No one listened to Deborah Cogger's story. Not her teachers, who dismissed it as no big deal. Not her social worker, who accused her of making it up. Not the newspapers she called decades later, which said it was too explosive to publish.

It was not until this fall, nearly 40 years after she left a reform school in Surrey, England, that Cogger finally got anyone to believe her account of how she and other girls there were routinely molested by one of Britain's most powerful celebrities, the eccentric, cigar-chomping television host Jimmy Savile.

"If you moaned about it, you were told not to say those awful things about Jimmy — 'Oh, that's just Jimmy, that's his way; he loves you girls,' " said Cogger, 52. "If you said he had touched your breasts," she added, "they'd say, 'Don't be wicked, he would never do that.' "

The revelation last month that Savile, who died last year, was most likely a child sex abuser with perhaps hundreds of victims has profoundly shocked a country that now acknowledges that all the signs were there, if anyone had cared to see them.

The disclosures have spurred a broad criminal inquiry involving numerous police departments and caused institutions, including schools, hospitals and the BBC, to investigate their ties to Savile. The disclosures have also provoked a crisis of management and responsibility inside the BBC and forced Prime Minister David Cameron to order two new inquiries into the handling of a sexual abuse scandal in Wales several years ago.

Hundreds of people have reported their own experiences to abuse hot lines. In addition, profound senses of discomfort and guilt were felt among those who knew, hired, admired, watched, welcomed, solicited charity from or cheerfully put young people in the path of Savile.

The disclosures have also highlighted how much Britain's attitude toward sexual abuse has changed since Savile's heyday, in the 1970s and '80s, a time when it was not uncommon for women to be groped and harassed at work, and when show business celebrities openly leered at, if not preyed on, the teenage girls who idolized them.

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