Monday, 5 May 2014

Will Clifford lead to a greater good?

By Howard Lake via Wikimedia Commons
This week the celebrity publicist Max Clifford began an eight year jail sentence for sexually assaulting young women and girls. This is good news for feminism.

It won't fix anything. Putting Max Clifford in jail won’t give his victims back what he took from them. It won't take away the years of pain they have experienced as a result of what he did to them, and the increasing sense of degradation they must have felt as they continued to be faced with his image on TV.

And there will still be Max Cliffords out there - more or less powerful than he was, who can intimidate young women and molest them, feeling safe in the knowledge that they are rich and powerful. With some insignificant little girl's word against his, who will be believed?

But Clifford's downfall does send the message that rich and powerful men can be called to account for what they do to women. They won't always get away with it. Sometimes, but not always.

Making women's words count

In court one of Clifford's victims told how, when she tried to stop him assaulting her, he asked "Who is going to believe you?"

Clifford's blatant acknowledgement of his power over the young women he assaulted gets to the heart of the issue. Men are not usually physically stronger than women, but men in positions of power are more credible. 

Hopefully, the big result of this case will be that men like Max Clifford no longer seem unpunishable.

More alleged victims of Clifford's abuse are believed to have come forward during the trial, which could potentially lead to further court proceedings in future. We can guess that through the news of the court case, they found the courage and confidence to speak out about incidents which, fearing they would never be believed, they may never have told another human being. 

The police also announced 'a significant increase in the number of sexual abuse allegations reported', as a result of high-profile cases like Clifford's.

The legacy of Clifford's case, which will hopefully outlast the term of his jail sentence, could be helping women to speak up about their abusers.

Balanced scale of Justice


On the one hand, Clifford's jail sentence is justice for the girls and young women whom he violated.

On the other hand, the sentence is a signal to every woman who has been abused, harassed or undermined by men in positions of power, that they can be called to account.

Sadly this isn’t always the case, as Jimmy Savile’s numerous victims would no doubt testify – he went to his grave without having to answer for his crimes.

Maxwell Clifford's jail sentence is a small piece of justice in an unjust world, particularly for women. But you never know, it might play a tiny part in helping women to find their voices against assault.

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