Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Rolf Harris Conviction

I've been mulling over this because it's something I feel very strongly about.  If you don't know already, entertainer Rolf Harris, has been found guilty of twelve counts of indecent assault on girls and young women. Since there have been multiple claims by adult women, many of them backed up by witnesses, that he groped them too.

The thing is when I was in a conversation with a man I know to be caring, supportive and genuinely appalled by what has come out in the Rolf Harris trial, I was asked why these women hadn't spoken up before.

Sounds reasonable, I suppose, but the thing is it's a lucky woman who doesn't experience unwanted sexual touching or get groped at some time and it's shocking when it happens. You can't quite believe it happened for a moment and, most of the time, the man makes a quick exit while you're standing there stunned or, if he's in a position of power as Rolf Harris was, he just goes on as if nothing has happened. By the time you've got yourself together you realise that it's too late because he's gone or that it's his word against yours and he'll swear it didn't happen or claim it was an accident or, if he's got the power as happened to Rolf Harris' victims, it's likely he's considered all the more credible because of the high status our society gives celebrities.

And Rolf Harris is a famous man, who was greatly admired as an entertainer and an artist. He was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Queen, for heaven's sake. He has been awarded a CBE, an MBE, an OBE and a Member of the Order of Australia. Most of these women were young or in their early teens, in situations where they had no witness to what had happened and knew that, if it came down to it, they were likely to be disbelieved or accused of seeking attention.

The adult women now coming forward have all said that had they known children were involved they would have spoken up and I don't doubt they would have. It's one thing to have a low life "octopus" grab your bum or breast or shove a hand inside your knickers or worse as an adult and decide it's not worth the hassle to report it and quite another if you know it's happening to a child.

The adults who were groped will probably not get their day in court and I suppose that's inevitable given the passage of time and the fact that such assaults rarely do make it to the court room but at least there will be some satisfaction for them now Rolf Harris has been sentenced. For the rest of us who have had similar experiences, society does seem to be changing with good men speaking up against the minority of their fellows who show no respect for women. Maybe when decent men, like the one I was talking to, hear exactly why women don't always report such incidents, they'll understand that it doesn't mean this is something they can ignore or take lightly because it is probable that this has happened to many women they know and it's high time it was stopped.

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