I remember so clearly being part of the Christmas Carols in the Park in my home town as a child. I got to sing, with my school mates, Six White Boomers, in front of the whole town, and I loved myself sick. I’ve always loved that song and would sing it with my own children when Christmas was coming around.
Then Rolf Harris was arrested for Indecent Assault and in 2014 was found guilty of those charges. I literally burnt the book Six White Boomers, that we had all loved so much.
I remember his trial, conviction and sentencing being played out in the media; the newspaper with his face plastered over the front sitting on the tables in my lunch room at work. I remember sharing his image and story on Facebook, saying to people that it can be anyone they know, not to be complacent, to have a conversation with their kids.
And then, there were the comments from ignorant people that made my blood boil.
“Oh look, another one has just come forward to get her 15 minutes!”
“All sounds pretty innocent to me!”
“Why wait all that time to come forward…must be a pay out in it!”
“He’s old, why put him in jail now, that doesn’t seem fair?”
These were comments that I heard in public, at work, in the media and on social media. They were comments made by people who have no idea of the prevalence, nor impact, of sexual abuse.
In February 2014, I watched the trial of another childhood favourite, Robert Hughes, unfold in the Sydney Courts. Again, similar taunts were made by reasonably well educated people. It’s alarming, the lack of knowledge and insight that some people have around this subject.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, was running at the same time that both of these trials did. I was optimistic that this may have helped some people to realise that the problem of Child Sexual Abuse was big enough that there was a Commission into the issue. However, I again found that people were reluctant to accept the implications of the abuse, and would offhandedly say things like, “it’s been going on forever”, almost as if justifying that it was okay to “bury one’s head” about it because it wasn’t a “real” secret, just something that no one talked about.
As recently as this week, another priest has been outed in the media for his crimes in the 1990’s in a well reputed school. I made contact with a friend, as she was a student at this particular school. Her response was unfortunately so familiar for many people who lived through the not-so-secret-secrets:
“We all knew about it when were at school. The cover ups are a disgrace”.
This friend was kind enough to share me into the group chat of her fellow class mates who all echoed sentiments along the same lines. One of the most frequent being, “How many lives has he ruined in the last 20 years?”
This man was shipped off to Papua New Guinea by the Church as a fix to the problem. This behaviour by this institution is abhorrent.
There are people who are offended by our family speaking out about our story. I’m not interested in their opinion. We will continue to speak out until the shame is redirected to those people who should own it…the paedophiles and not my children.