Friday, 4 July 2014

A Sad Goodbye to Childhood Innocence

Until I moved to the UK I hadn't really heard of Jimmy Savile. I must have seen his picture and maybe seen clips, but I didn't really know who he was, he wasn't part of my childhood. When the revelations broke in 2012 I felt immense sadness for his many victims, but also for all those (and most people did) who had fond memories of his shows, and his sayings, things you can't say now that once you "Jim will fix it", sayings that had become part of the vernacular.

When I wrote "Jimmy Savile is Dead" in October 2012 I had no idea what was to come.

My friend Jayneen Saunders, the author of Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept told me first. That the man arrested in his 80's was Rolf Harris. I felt sick.

You see my abuse used to happen on a Saturday, very often. I would go home, wash and then have tea and watch Rolf Harris. I found him soothing and comforting, his voice, his paintings, his jokes, his warmth.

I remember one day my abuser saying "he is just like me isn't he?" I stared at him "touchy, feely and loves children". Those words now chill me to the core. I have to be careful not to stray into overthinking, wondering whether there was some sort of real knowledge of each other, although I am sure there wasn't, Bassendean is a long way from Hobart and Rolf had left Australia in the 50's.

When I first moved to the UK I met a Tasmanian lady my age who had married a Lancashire lad. She worked at an art gallery and mentioned she had met Rolf Harris and he had touched her and some of her other colleagues inappropriately. She mentioned the term "octopus" which later emerged in the press and court during his trial.

So the allegations, charges and now conviction weren't entirely a surprise to me. However it's so sickening that it took so long to bring him to justice, that a number of women and children were hurt (many gave supporting evidence in court that wasn't able to be brought as charges as it happened outside the UK) and I am sure there are many other women and children who didn't fully realise at the time that what he was doing consituted abuse, it wasn't just unpleasant or an old man being "touchy feely", it was sexual assault.

For victims today I think there is a bitter taste left for us. Some of us will never see our own perpertrators brought to justice. And some of these trials leave us wondering whether justice is truly being seen to be done. I know Rolf Harris is an old man, perhaps not in best of health, with a wife who is frail. However he paid no heed to the rights of his victims, to their right to body safety. He created a fake persona which enabled him to get away with abusing women and chidren.

He has received a sentence which not only does not reflect the gravity of his actions, but also does not reflect anywhere near the total of years he could have received, even given the law regarding historic crimes, where the sentence applied is the one that existed the time the offences were committed.

My heart goes out to all of us who have been affected by sexual abuse, as a child or adult, whether an unwanted kiss, touch or more.

What happens to our bodies matters. Sexual assualt is serious, it's a crime, and it should carry grave repercussions when it occurs.

Tonight Rolf Harris is behind bars, the Attorney General is reviewing the sentence, and his victims can know that they were believed, their cases were heard and justice was done. To a point.


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  2. I think Harris's sentence is an insult to those whose lives have been ruined. The judge allowed that three of the four women were profoundly affected by their abuse.
    Incidentally, when I was 9 my school showed a video which I suppose was something all schools showed at the time. It was about not allowing adults to touch you inappropriately and featured a song that went "my body's nobody's body but mine." It was presented by Rolf Harris. To me this was him laughing at the entire system.


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