Former Newsnight editor Peter Rippon’s casual dismissal of Jimmy Savile’s victims as “just the women” in his now notorious email to producer Meirion Jones, pretty much encapsulates the attitudes that have persisted towards the survivors of Savile’s abuse ever since.

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Yes that’s right, the survivors, remember them?

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Just in case anyone’s forgotten, what’s prompted the current crisis at the BBC is the revelation that for decades Jimmy Savile raped and abused countless young women and girls. In fact it’s now believed that Savile could well turn out to have been one of the country’s most prolific paedophiles; a man who created and starred in TV shows and charity events not out of any sense of wanting to entertain or because he was particularly altruistic, but for the express purpose of ensuring he had unfettered access to vulnerable young people he could then go on to abuse.

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Yet sadly, as is all so often the case when survivors of sexual violence find the strength to break their silence, the people who have so far come forward to speak out about the abuse Savile and others subjected them to have already been forgotten, their voices and their testimonies brushed aside in the rush to blame someone, anyone, everyone at the BBC except the perpetrators themselves.

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Yes Newsnight fucked up, and yes of course the executives and others who were responsible for pulling the report on Savile last year, and for giving the go ahead to the more recent and now discredited Bureau of Investigative Journalism piece, need to be held accountable for their mistakes. But the story of Jimmy Savile is not the story of Newsnight and what went wrong at the BBC in the months after his death. The story of Jimmy Savile, the story that should be uppermost in any coverage that has his name attached, is the story of the hundreds of young people he raped and abused: the victims and the survivors of his crimes.

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That’s not to say that the implosion of the BBC isn’t an important story in itself, because of course it is, but it’s a separate, albeit related, issue.  The problem is that it’s this issue that is now being given centre stage; the problem is that as always, survivors of rape and sexual violence are being ignored, the impact of what happened to them minimised and discounted in favour of a seemingly bigger, juicier story. Who cares about the survivors after all, those who are at the end of the day “just the women“, when the very future of one of our great British institutions is at stake? Who wants to think about the atrocities Savile committed, when we can instead revel in the spectacle of the BBC eating itself alive?

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On Wednesday evening, 21st November, ITV will be screening Exposure Update, reporting on the progress of the police investigation into Savile and the sexual abuse claims made against him. Let’s hope that this programme helps to refocus attention back onto the real issues in this case, and helps ensure that the survivors of rape and sexual violence are front and centre of the story, instead of being relegated to the sidelines of some BBC sideshow as they have been over the past few months.

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The Rape Crisis National Freephone Helpline is open from 12-2.30pm & 7-9.30pm every day of the year: you can call them on 0808 802 9999

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