“The key thing for me as a child was, if I met Rolf Harris, I’d think I know him. I’d never met him, but if I met him, because I’d seen him on TV, I would feel that I knew Rolf Harris.”- Peter Watt, National Services Director, NSPCC
In 1968, the same year Rolf Harris received his MBE, he assaulted his first young girl. Just a few years after his own daughter had been born; Harris abused a girl aged between 7 or 8. Harris was already well known by the time of her abuse. That’s why she came to see him at a community hall. She queued for his autograph. On finally meeting her idol in the flesh, he secretly sexually assaulted her. The child said later:"It took away my childhood. It affected every aspect of my life from the point he assaulted me.”
The victim was left with a sense of guilt and shame that her star had singled her out.
“The fact that Harris was so family friendly and so well known for working with children...is what’s caused most of the victims so much shock.” Liz Dux, Abuse Lawyer, Representing Harris’ Victims, Slater and Gordon
But Harris was only getting started.
His main victim would be the best friend of his daughter, Bindi.The 1980s saw his longest period of abuse. He preyed on his daughter’s best friend, grooming and molesting her. They lived opposite each other and she and Bindi had grown up together and had been in each other’s houses.
But it was when the Harris’s went on holiday and took her, aged 13, on holiday to Australia that the abuse began.His victim had never been away. She was without her parents. She was dependent on the Harris family.Harris violently sexually assaulted her. She was too terrified to resist him.She was too traumatised to report him. When she returned home, the abuse continued. He once abused her in his daughter’s bed, as his daughter slept beside them. By this point, she was fifteen. Harris was fifty. In an attempt to block out the abuse, she started drinking.Either oblivious or indifferent to her suffering, Harris continued to abuse others.
His audacity was such that in the 1980s, he fronted a child protection awareness video in which he told children how to say no to predatory adults.Actor Tony Porter worked with him and behind the scenes, saw how blatant Harris had become.
“The show was called Rolf. And it was just Rolf doing his shtick - bad puns and dad jokes. It wasn’t cutting edge comedy.”
Tony was in make-up and witnessed Harris reach for the make-up artist’s breasts. He acknowledged his lunge to Tony with a Hannibal Lecter like intake of breath. Believing it to be a one off, Tony didn’t report it.
“Harris presented a very warm, empathetic presence...he was very good with children, he was very good at cracking jokes and all the rest, yet in his spare time, he was also attacking women, and he was groping, and taking advantage...You can’t be both of those things.” Patrick Carlyon, Senior Journalist, Melbourne Herald Sun
Increasingly, in entertainment circles, Harris became known as ‘Dirty Rolf’. On one occasion, a well-known celebrity was at a Melbourne radio station when he saw a school group doing a tour. Knowing Harris was in the building he panicked, and ordered the school group out.But it seemed that Harris’s dirty secret would stay known to only a very few.