Rolf Harris victims speak of abuse
- 4 July 2014
- From the section UK
Rolf Harris's victims have described the "catastrophic" effect of his abuse, as the former entertainer was jailed for nearly six years.
Their statements were read in court before the 84-year-old was sentenced for 12 indecent assaults on four girls, including one aged just seven or eight.
One victim said the abuse had destroyed her "childhood innocence", while another said the assaults made her feel "dirty, grubby and disgusting".
Others described how they had struggled to move on, with one saying the abuse had "haunted her".
'Never move on'
Australian Tonya Lee - who has waived her right to anonymity - said Harris had taken her "ability to feel safe", adding that she remained in "a constant state of anxiety".
She was abused three times in one day by Harris while she was on a theatre group trip to the UK aged 15 in 1986.
"What Mr Harris took from me was my very essence," her statement said. "I believe that it was for Mr Harris a forgettable moment but it was something for me I will never move on from.
"I know the person I am today is not the person I should have been."
A statement from another victim - a childhood friend of Harris's daughter Bindi - said the continued abuse she suffered between the ages of 13 and 19 "had a detrimental effect on my life".
The victim, who was in court but spoke through her lawyer, said the assaults made her feel "dirty, grubby and disgusting", adding Harris had "used and abused me to such a degree that it made me feel worthless".
"As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family," she said.
"However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised. The knowledge of what he had done to me haunted me."
She said the effects of the abuse have been with her for many years.
"I started drinking at the age of 14 to 15 years old. This was to block out the effects of what he was doing to me," she said.
She said that Harris had a hold over her that made her feel like "a quivering wreck" and "a sexual object".
Judge Justice Sweeney said he had no doubt that Harris had caused this victim "severe psychological harm" and that his crimes against her played a part in her becoming an alcoholic.
Speaking after sentencing, the victim described the jail term as "immaterial".
'Carried it with me'
One victim, who was aged seven or eight when she was assaulted as she queued to get an autograph from the star, said she had "carried" what Harris did to her "for most of my life".
She was indecently assaulted at a community centre in Hampshire in 1968 or 1969 and said she later became "an angry child" who was "unable to trust men" as a result of the abuse.
Harris had taken away her "childhood innocence", she said.
Her statement said: "Something he did to me for fun that caused me physical and mental pain for his own pleasure and then probably forgot about as quickly as he did it has had a catastrophic effect on me."
Speaking outside court, a representative of this victim, said: "[She] had only eight years of her life without this incident going round in her head, and that was her first eight years.
"After these cameras have been dismantled and the media circus has rolled on to another town it will still be with her as it will be with the other girls."
'Loss of innocence'
A statement from the fourth victim, who had been working as a waitress at a charity event in Cambridge aged 13 or 14 when Harris abused her, said the experience had had a "huge impact on my life".
She said the star "treated me like a toy" he could play with for his own pleasure, and that he had "absolutely no regard for what he was inflicting".
She said she felt as though Harris acted "as if nothing had happened".
"That an adult man could do what he did to me made me feel so powerless," she added.
After sentencing, the woman told ITV News: "He was a celebrity. He was a family man. So you instantly trusted in him. He was a children's entertainer so by association you should be able to trust such a person.
"Everyone is laughing with him and adoring him, while you're having that done to you. It's an unbelievable feeling of a loss of trust and a loss of innocence."
Harris 'hurt women'
Another woman, who said she was assaulted by Harris in Cambridge in 1977, has told the BBC he was a "fraud" who "hurt women".
Karen Gardner, who has waived her right to anonymity and who submitted written evidence to the trial, said the entertainer had put his arm round her and touched her breast.
"I was shocked, I was very surprised. This was the man who sang 'Two Little Boys' and painted lovely paintings," she said.
She told the BBC that Harris was not "the man he pretended to be".
Her claims did not form part of charges against Harris at his trial.
One woman told the BBC she met Harris when she was 18 and he was "very kind, very nice" - but then "sexually abused" her.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence in the trial but the attack in Malta was not the subject of a prosecution because at the time of the incident the offence was outside the jurisdiction of a UK court.
She told BBC News: "In simple terms, he sexually abused me. It was quite intimate, it was forceful and it was scary.
"Actually at the time, I felt that I was going to be raped."