Rolf Harris guilty: A very ordinary tale of a bleak abuse of male power over young girls

It's appalling that even in 2014 we continue to blame child victims

Share

For a man whom we know to have spread so much darkness, Rolf Harris certainly brightened up my 1970s childhood. Rolf was the very best sort of grown-up: a very silly one. He’d lollop on to stage in a trench-coat with a third comedy “peg leg”, banging, hooting and wobbling out noises on bewildering Aborigine instruments. He’d implore us to learn to swim. He had his own Cartoon Club. “You can join today!”, he’d yell in the opening titles, daubing “Rolfaroos”.

He’d release vinyl LPs that my gran would play in her front sitting room – the one she only used on special occasions – featuring songs like the rollicking tongue twister “The Ladies of the Court of King Caratacus”, and the ballad of war and friendship “Two Little Boys”, which after a couple of Babychams would make all the aunties cry. Here was a man who couldn’t complete his pieces to camera about a poorly poodle on Animal Hospital as he was weeping too much. A star turn at Glastonbury, uniting thousands of field-dwellers with “Sun Arise”, Rolf Harris was very much loved.

It’s appalling to think that this public affection helped him gain access to so many young girls, whom he later claimed “jumped on the band-wagon” with memories of sexual assault. His daughter’s 13-year old friend, a 15-year-old aspiring dancer, a seven-year-old autograph-hunter, a 13-year-old waitress; the list goes on and the circumstances vary, although, to Rolf Harris mind, they all share a common impetus of being bold-faced liars who seek to trip a famous man up.

Read more: Rolf Harris found guilty on all 12 counts of indecent assault
Veteran 'attacked high-profile TV presenter during interview'
Rolf Harris - the letter that sealed his fate
The PR battle waged behind the scenes by Bell Pottinger

The story of Rolf Harris’s rise to national treasure status and his ability to entertain is extraordinary, but when that's all stripped away, here is a very ordinary tale of a bleak abuse of male power over young girls. And a very bog-standard example of how we treat women who attempt to raise the alarm. 

As barrister Simon Ray so starkly put it during his defence of Harris in connection with one bout of sexual impropriety - which began when the girl was 13 and stretched over many years – “She needed it to be something that for which no-one could blame her at all, she could only receive sympathy. You may think that was the moment she decided to accuse Rolf Harris.” Then later adding, “Mr Harris is not the first man and he won't be the last to lose perspective and rational thought in the face of flattering attention”. Here, in a nutshell, is the problem: even in a courtroom, in 2014, the blaming of child victims and the painting of sexual abuse as “just men being men” is fair game.

I’d like to say there are no winners in this story, but Bindi Harris, Rolf’s daughter, must be applauded for her constant unfaltering support of her dad, showing up in court every day - clutching his elbow - to hear tales of the abuse of her friend, then aged 13, on family holidays and in backs of cars. Bindi is due to inherit £11m from the Rolf Harris estate. She really deserves every penny.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk