I have purposefully not titled this with Rolf Harris’s name. I am happy to publicize his shame and make sure that he gets as much disgust as he once received accolades but I am tired of the story being about the abuser, in that we forget that victims and the cost to their lives.
Rolf Harris was found guilty of indecently assaulting 4 girls between 1968 and 1986.
His sentencing will occur shortly.
I hope that the court will take into account how, when confronted with these charges, he did not stand up and own his shame. He did not spare the victims further pain. He went to the public and counted on their support to convince the legal system that he was innocent.
I would like to also address all those people who weighed in with their support for Rolf Harris. Based on??? He is an entertainer that they liked? Did any of them consider the pain their public – in your face – support caused the victims? Perhaps they should have waited for the facts before jumping in. I think it would be appropriate for someone to hold those people accountable. It would be awesome if they could do it for themselves . . . but I have my doubts.
Here is my issue with child abuse.
When the child is missing, their picture is plastered everywhere and people cry in outrage. When the child is rescued, people weep for the poor kid and what they have been through. When a predator is caught and we hear that children were abused, we cry foul. We fight against sexual predators, we don’t want them in our neighbourhoods, we caution our children about them constantly.
But sexual abuse does not go away once the predator is charged and sentenced. It doesn’t end when the jail term is up. It doesn’t magically disappear when the child becomes an adult. But no-one really cares about the adult who was once a child victim. No-one wants to hear about their continued struggle and we often put them in positions of having to talk about the most horrific thing that ever happened in their life, in order to get the care they need.
Consider the woman who goes to the dentist and explains they need to be put out for work done on their mouth, that they have a fear that goes beyond the normal fear of needles etc. The dentist will argue with her and try to convince her he can make it painless, he will be gentle, etc. She tells him again it has nothing to do with pain or needles. She tries, she is very uncomfortable being in the chair with people standing over her. He will argue more. Finally she will have to tell him she was abused when she was a child. You will be surprised how many dentists ignore that as “get over it, that was over 20 years ago.” She will then have to try and convince him how bad it was, maybe even giving details.
You would be surprised how many times these issues come up for survivors of abuse. With doctors, business situations, social events … it is humiliating. I recently spoke to one woman who had to cancel a required medical procedure because the doctor had no compassion for her when she told him that it was that specific test done a few months earlier that brought back the memories of her abuse. In her desperation to get this asshole to have compassion for her she told him how the head of the Child Sex Crimes unit had resigned after the case, from the PTSD he suffered dealing with it. The doctor still refused to alter how they did the test. It was not his problem. He told her to decide how important the test was to her.
Families and friends can be just as cruel. They want the person to get over it. They don’t want to hear about it, and they hold the person to a level of behaviour that is not fair considering the abuse. A child who was a victim often goes on to be sexually inappropriate or to struggle with their sexuality. They may have addiction problems and even difficulties with the law. We forget that these people will take years to learn to manage their physical, emotional and spiritual reactions to the abuse. We can understand how, if someone is in an accident they might lose an arm. We do not expect them to grow a new arm. At best, they learn to navigate life with a prosthetic arm. But the reality is there. They lost an arm. The impact of that is there. Sexual Abuse causes a spiritual wounding just as real as a physical one that causes someone to lose an arm. It is there. A person can learn to cope but the reality is permanent.
Tonya Lee is who I will focus on when I hear anything about Rolf Harris. I will do this because she is a survivor whose healing was delayed because there was no justice for her abuse. She had to carry the secret for years, probably many people would not believe her. Rolf Harris had a choice, to abuse or not. He had a choice to stop or not, to not pick other victims. He had a choice when he committed the acts and he had a choice when the victims came forward to do the right thing, admit his wrong, take his punishment and stop thinking only of himself. Instead he abused without any compassion for the children crying in pain and fear. He acted without any consideration for the betrayal to his family, or his fans. He acted with cowardice, more concerned about his own self than in doing the right thing. He had choice, then and now. He has proven who he is. Now Tonya has some ability to move forward. She is the face of this. The tragedy is not that Rolf Harris was/is a pig. The tragedy is that Tonya Lee was abused and denied justice for this long.
I hope that all of you will consider those in your life who have been abused, as children, now adults … and realize that you can keep them in pain and shame with your actions or lack of compassion or you can open the doors and allow them to heal. It will take time, it will be painful. Their souls are damaged. They need unconditional love and support to find a way to move forward and leave the abuse with the abuser.
Please let us start looking at the survivors and putting our efforts into supporting them, and not just for the five minutes they are on the evening news.