Harris’s sentence ‘pathetic’

A QUIRINDI woman preyed upon as a teenager by Rolf Harris has given her most candid interview yet, slamming his “pathetic” sentence and revealing the spiral of self-abuse the assault triggered.

EMOTIONAL SCARS: Rolf Harris abuse victim Nina Bekker says his ‘soft sentence’ could deter other sexual assault victims from speaking up. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 140714GOA02

EMOTIONAL SCARS: Rolf Harris abuse victim Nina Bekker says his ‘soft sentence’ could deter other sexual assault victims from speaking up. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 140714GOA02

Nina Bekker, a teacher at Werris Creek Public School, was just 14 when the disgraced entertainer molested her in a room and a lift of a Sydney motel.

She said the assault had a profound impact on her young mind, sparking an identity crisis that took years to reconcile.

“I grew up such a tomboy – I’d never even worn a dress or held hands with a boy – and when Rolf Harris intruded on me like that it was so confronting,” Ms Bekker told The Leader.

“When he talked about my breasts the way he did, when he touched me the way he did, he defined my gender to me.

“I thought that’s what it was to be a girl, that’s what intimacy with a man was about.

“I thought that’s what all men were like for many years.”

Ms Bekker, 50, revealed the assault thrust her into “self-destruct mode”.

“I became a street kid and was very angry at the world,” she said.

“It was like I was on a suicide mission ... I engaged in a lot of high-risk behaviour.

“I would hitchhike all over the place for no reason and I deliberately tried to make myself look ugly.

“I felt very negative towards men and it wasn’t until my mid-20s that my view changed a bit.”

Ms Bekker, who is single, said she was still distrustful of men’s motives.

She reported the Harris assaults to police and was prepared to testify in his trial but was not called by the prosecution.

She said his sentence this month of less than six years’ jail was “absolutely inadequate”. “I was hopeful he would get a sentence reflective of the number of lives he affected,” Ms Bekker said.

“Those 12 women are only the tip of the iceberg, many more are now coming forward.

“His age and his wife’s health shouldn’t matter – justice is justice.

“People say that he’s gone from a celebrity to a person of disrepute and that’s punishment in itself but I don’t agree.

“He was never deserving of any accolades in the first place.

“He abused his celebrity status, he abused the trust people had in him.

“That’s what paedophiles do.

“If it was a teacher who used their position of power, that wouldn’t be a mitigating factor in getting a lighter sentence.”

She said she had heard from “many more” Harris victims in Australia but feared the “soft sentence” would discourage them from coming forward.

“Their mindsets are just like mine was 30 years ago – there seems to be no point in speaking up,” she said.

“It just seems pointless. The sentence has trivialised his behaviour and I think it’s a strong deterrent for sexual assault victims everywhere from speaking up.”

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