Will Black is a writer and journalist with a background in anthropology and mental health care.
His latest book, Psychopathic Cultures and Toxic Empires, examines the corrupting influence powerful psychopaths have on societies. Examples of psychopathic and toxic cultures addressed include those within paedophile rings, politics, finance, gangs, security services, religious organisations and the media. As well as identifying distinctive characteristics of psychopathic cultures, Black highlights inherent weaknesses of organisations built on deceit and corruption.
Will also writes for the Huffington Post
When sex abuser Rolf Harris did his slapdash paintings on TV, surrounded by children, he used the catchphrase “Can you tell what it is yet?” Harris himself was also something of a sketchy cartoon figure then, as erratic and nebulous as his manic paintings and peculiar songs.
Given what we now know about Harris, his catchphrase is quite chilling. He could just as easily have been saying “Can you tell what I am yet?”, in a similar way to how Savile can appear to be taunting society in those hideous photos of him leering smugly, surrounded by children or politicians.
So pleased was Harris with his catchphrase that he used it as the title of his 2001 autobiography. By the time that book was released, one of Harris’ victims had confronted him about abusing her and disclosed the abuse to her parents. Therefore, Harris was well-aware that the cartoon veneer he presented to the world could rapidly be replaced by a stark image of a manipulative abuser. For an offender who abused a child while his daughter slept nearby, it is possible that this knowledge that the cartoon image could melt away and the predator be revealed would have added to his twisted thrill. Nevertheless, he did what he could to protect his image and fortune.
After Harris was confronted by one of his victims, in Norfolk, he sent a letter to her dad containing terms like “atone”, “forgiveness” and “self-loathing”. He also said he was “sickened” by himself. The victim in question was a friend of his daughter, and he reportedly targeted her from the age of 13.
The letter, which was written in 1997, reads: “Since that trip up to Norfolk, I have been in a state of abject self-loathing. How we delude ourselves. I fondly imagined that everything that had taken place had progressed from a feeling of love and friendship – there was no rape, no physical forcing, brutality or beating that took place.
“When I came to Norfolk, [the victim] told me that she had always been terrified of me and went along with everything that I did out of fear of me. I said ‘Why did you never just say no?’. And [the victim] said how could she say no to the great television star Rolf Harris. Until she told me that, I had no idea that she was scared of me. She laughs in a bitter way and says I must have known that she has always been scared of me. I honestly didn’t know.
“[The victim] keeps saying that this has all been going on since she was 13. She’s told you that and you were justly horrified, and she keeps reiterating that to me, no matter what I said to the contrary.”
Harris goes onto write: “When I see the misery I have caused [the victim] I am sickened by myself. You can’t go back and change things that you have done in this life – I wish to God I could. When I came to Norfolk, spent that time with [the victim] and realised the enormity of what I had done to [the victim], and how I had affected her whole life, I begged her for forgiveness and she said ‘I forgive you’.
“Whether she really meant it or not, I don’t know. I hope she did, but I fear she can never forgive me. I find it hard to like myself in any way, shape or form. And as I do these animal programmes, I see the unconditional love that dogs give to their owners and I wish I could start to love myself again. If there is any way that I could atone for what I have done I would willingly do it. If there is a way I can start to help [the victim] to heal herself, I would willingly do it.”
It would appear now, however, that Harris has got over this fleeting pang of apparent remorse, to the extent that he has written a song in prison attacking his victims. In the song he calls his victims “slimy little woodworm” and “wenches”, and he accuses them of “joining the feeding frenzy” and trying to get their “hooks into his dough”. This is rich coming from an abuser who sent a crocodile tear-splattered letter to a victim’s family, presumably to protect his lucrative career.
The song was included in a letter posted from Stafford Prison. Harris was moved to the Category C prison not long into his sentence for multiple assaults on girls. In the letter Harris says “after eight months inside, the inner rage has come to the fore. I’ve started writing a song about the injustice of it all.” He goes onto say that he plans to record it as soon as he is released in 2017. This suggests Harris assumes he will be granted parole at the earliest opportunity, as he received a five years and nine months sentence in 2014.
Commenting on the letter and song, solicitor Liz Dux, who has represented Harris’ victims, told BBC Radio 4: “I am calling for this letter to be shown to the parole board and for it to be taken into account when deciding when to release him. The whole point of parole is for people to show some sort of remorse and understanding of their actions when they return into society, and here is someone who is clearly behaving as he was before, with complete distain.”
Harris may be released from prison before he dies, but I would suggest his rehabilitation has much further to go if he doesn’t recognise that the public sees him as a child abuser first and foremost. He was never much of an artist anyway and nobody wants to listen to a sex attacker smearing his victims.