Rolf Harris and the suffocating silence of sexual abuse.

As the trial of Rolf Harris has progressed I have refrained from offering comment to friends and family about his alleged guilt (or innocence).  My preference is for the law to be in charge of that for without the rule of law we have nothing, but that is an aside.

I read in the Herald this morning of another “victim” of Rolf Harris coming out,
this time it was a well known broadcaster and politician Maggie Barry http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11287467.  Maggie was groped by Harris during a radio interview whilst in her studio.  My first reaction was to say to myself why did she not speak up?  There it is!  It is often the reaction people have when they hear of past sex crimes that are not reported to the authorities, people say she/he should have said something.

Abusers rely on silence because of their power, position or privilege.  I am referring to people who are known to their victims, the abusers have an instinctive knowledge that they will get away with their crimes .  I cant tell you if that is borne from experience or a cold, calculated, constructed approach that the perpetrators bring.  What I do know is that somewhere someplace the perpetrator has done this once before and got away with it.  Remember that sexual assault is driven and perpetuated by power, so back to the silence.

The silence of victims can be puzzling.  Why do people not say anything after they have been assaulted?  Well the answer to that is obvious in many third world countries, where the punishment for being assaulted can be death, physical or emotional.  Here in New Zealand it is not a lot better.  We have senior officials telling women to dress appropriately, shock jocks muttering stupidly to them selves and others, comments like she was asking for it, boys will be boys.  Who would be brave enough to open themselves to  ridicule, the whole process of notifying a rape or sexual assault claim is invasive and horrid, unfortunately to uphold the rule of law and to rule out false claims it has to be to a certain degree.

Do false claims occur? Absolutely they do. They are a fact of life that some people make up a claim of sexual assault for a variety of reasons, often there will be underlying, unaddressed  psychological issues involved, every time a false allegation occurs it gives ammunition to the misogynistic men who are too afraid and too powerful to be concerned about the reality of  sexual assault.   Make no mistake rape is a societal problem, see my blog here for a further discussion of that issue, https://kiwipaulspoetry.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/roast-busters-a-society-problem/.

A societal issue demands a societal answer, Society is made up of individuals and we know that for evil to flourish it takes good people to do nothing.  I hear misogyny and sexism most days that I am in the classroom.  I confront it, I confront it when I hear it uttered by my boys, I tell my girls it is unacceptable and I hope that I don’t model tolerance of this sickness in any manner or form.  What we need is a united approach to this kind of behaviour .  Women are dehumanised, demeaned, and demonised, it is not acceptable.  That starts with us.

There are usually warning signs when it comes to abuse, sometimes it is only intuition but I have learnt to trust my intuition.  It is informed by experience, knowledge and I guess spirituality, you meet someone for the first time and you have an instinctive dislike of them and a gut feeling about them.  My advice is to follow that until proven otherwise.  If you see something that walks, looks and quacks like a duck it is unlikely to be a pigeon. I imagine that there are a lot of people out there asking themselves what it I had stood up and said something?

Perhaps Rolf Harris may have been brought to book and stopped a lot earlier.  Make no mistake here, the cult of personality prevailed, experienced child abuse practitioners encountered and disliked Harris.  No body stopped him until a brave woman stood up and said enough.  I really want to say  shame on those who did not speak up when as adults they encountered the octopus.  Rolf Harris like all sex offenders has lost the right to live as a free man in society and society needs to be protected.  I  do not feel relief at his conviction just a profound sadness that he got away with this  for so long and that his victims have been scarred by this abomination..  As always I want to say, if you need help there are lots of places  to get it.  If you need to find help then contact me, I will assist you in any way I can.

Paul

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