Its been a few days since Australian artist and musician, Rolf Harris, was convicted and sentenced to what could be the rest of his life in prison for the sexual abuse of a minor. It has been big news, but at the same time, not much is really being said about it. Its not a topic I hear people talking about over coffee, and there has been precious little in my online world. I’m pretty sure Brittany Spears had more said about her when she opted to drive with her baby in her lap instead of in a child restraint. All this uncomfortable silence may be because it leaves his much loved and admired work in ethical limbo. As my Facebook friend said – What now of his work?
My response was this “ It is a shameful truth that pedophiles seek work which brings them closer to children, and positions of trust and admiration. Therefore I can only guess that Rolf pursued a life in the limelight to achieve this trust. How can we view any of his work as anything other than the means by which a pedophile gained the trust and position needed to get closer to children. What would I say to my children in 10 years when they figure out what he did,why we continued to hold him in high esteem? He might be locked away, but sexual abuse has a way of rotting everything it touches. May Rolf Harris be a dirty word for ever more.”
It is about as harsh as I can get really, because I have no sympathy for people who abuse the trust of a minor.
When the question was first posed, I had a moment of “well, its not like he is abusing my children through his music” but I quickly made the comparison to an abusive priest. If I am ultimately pulling my support for any priest who similarly abuses the trust of his congregation, or any clergyman who hides this truth and continues to allow an abusing priest to serve, then I cannot support a convicted pedophile or any of his works.
I feel very strongly about this despite the obvious conundrum of “Love the sinner but not the sin”. I suppose my severity is derived from knowledge about how abusers work. As stated in my above response, pedophiles, and sexual predators, often find positions of power, authority and esteem in order to reach their victims. We know this as “Grooming”. Grooming can sometimes take the form of favouring a child, showering them with gifts and attention, elbowing themselves into a place of trust and esteem in a child’s life. Grooming can also be an abuser finding a place of trust in many children’s lives. Who would question a man like Rolf Harris, the famed and glorified entertainer for instance? This instant access and trust gives a pedophile a lifetime pass to abuse children. (I am in no way saying that ALL children’s entertainers are abusers, just that the life of a children’s entertainer is a legitimate way for a pedophile to access potential victims).
If this is what Rolf Harris has done, then any of his music can only been seen as an attempt by a pedophile to gain the trust and access to abuse children. If he has just happened to find himself in a very tempting position, and took advantage of it by abusing children, then this is also abhorrent. How can we hold such a man in esteem, or even his work, if it has allowed him to break the trust of children who looked up to him?
Similarly, what message does continuing to glorify his name send to victims of abuse? Any abuse – not just his victims? That we can continue to revel in the works of a convicted pedophile despite the obvious harm he has done in the lives of his victims? We must hold true to our convictions – that sexual abuse is wrong in any and all circumstances, even when it means allowing what we once loved to go to mud. Any person, no matter their position – children’s entertainer, priest, family friend – cannot and will not be held in any esteem in my household. Rolf Harris’ has just become a dirty word.