Her Fight: the aftermath of justice
TRIGGER WARNING – this post contains details of sexual abuse that some readers may find difficult. A list of support services follows this post.
This post follows an article on the trial against a man who abused our young child. Read here.
The week following the trial against my daughter’s abuser, we attended court again for the sentencing. His family and friends were still there to support him which felt hard to comprehend. The perpetrator was brought into the court in prison issue clothing and I admit it gave me pleasure to see him looking haggard. We sat through another long day as the barristers argued over his sentence. As the judge read his charges and the details of his crimes out, I watched his family to see if there was any discomfort as they heard what their loved one did to an eight-year-old child. One of the female friends cried quietly – whether for my daughter or her friend, I don’t know.
The man who abused my innocent child was sentenced to twelve months, with a suspended sentence after just four months. We’d gone along the sentencing saying we were just so relieved he’d been found guilty and any amount of time behind bars would satisfy us. However, we left the court feeling deflated. In the judge’s summation, he’d stated that the sentence reflected our community’s need for punishment suitable for the crime. I don’t believe that many people in my community would agree that just four months in prison is enough for someone found guilty on charges of indecent treatment of a child under 12 and attempted indecent treatment, due to the second time he attempted to abuse her. My daughter has a life long sentence due to this man taking advantage of her innocence and destroying her trust in adult men at the tender age of eight. Yet the judge believes our community would be satisfied with him spending just four months in prison.
The judge also referred to the perpetrator as having ‘self-rehabilitated’ and referred to the two times he abused our child as aberrant behaviour in a man who was otherwise a good citizen. The notion of referring to a convicted child molester as a good citizen was repugnant. It left all of us feeling frustration at our legal system and the ridiculous rules for sentencing. What proof is there that this man has ‘self-rehabilitated’? After going through the ordeal of the trial, I would completely understand if other victims don’t come forward due to fear of the process.
As part of the defence team’s plan to lessen his sentence, we heard that he’d made charitable donations back in 2004. Apparently a fifteen year old donation was valid, as the judge referred to it in his summation. We heard that the sentence should be low as he wasn’t in a position of trust for our child. Yet, he was my husband’s best friend and we’d allowed him to sleep in our house several times. Surely that would have demonstrated to our child that he was someone to be trusted.
We sat in court all day and listened to the defence lawyer bemoan the treatment this child sex offender had endured over the previous week at the watch house. He complained that he’d not received adequate time outside, that the room was small, that he only had a nurse to talk about his mental health with, he’d only been given one phone call to his wife. Had he expected to spend time in Club Med? It’s jail. It was hard not to scoff at the complaints as we sat directly behind his stoic family and friends. I wanted them to hear me as I said ‘So what? It’s jail. He’s supposed to be suffering!’
As the long day of legal jargon came to an end, I felt all the elation from the previous week drain out of me. I had gone into that room ready to accept any amount of prison time as a win. However, listening to the arguments made to defend the man who hurt my child, had eroded so much of the satisfaction we’d felt at knowing he would be behind bars. It had created new wounds and made me angry at our legal system again. We had been discouraged from reading our witness impact statements in court and I now regretted that. I wish I’d pushed it further so I could have at least stood in front of this despicable man and his supportive family and tell the personal side of what he’d done to my family.
We met with the prosecution team as we left the courthouse. The barrister reminded us that we should feel this process is now over. She told us to not let this event define our lives, especially to our daughter. I know she is right, but it is so hard to feel it is over after hearing the outlandish comments made in the summation.
My family now needs to heal from all that we’ve been through. We spent the weekend following his sentencing going out for meals, games and movies, just enjoying our time together. I want to live my life free from resentment and bitterness, but I’ve found it difficult in this case. I’ve decided to allow myself the next four months of relishing all the joy we have in our lives while enjoying the notion that the perpetrator is behind bar, joyless and suffering. When he is released from jail, I’ll try to release myself from the anger still fuming inside me.
My daughter is doing well and that is the true miracle through all of this. She is a fun, happy, well-adjusted young adult in a very healthy, committed relationship with a wonderful young man who supported her so well throughout the trial. My son showed compassion beyond his fourteen years and I like to think it forged a solid bond between the siblings (yes, they still fight, but I know the bond is there!) My husband openly displayed his emotions throughout the week at court, while also showering our kids in physical affection and support. He is a strong role model of healthy masculinity. My whole family is tighter after this experience and we feel loved and supported by the community we’ve built around us. We pulled together in a way that made me exceptionally proud. It is the silver lining I will take from an otherwise horrendous situation.
If this story has brought up any concerns for you – please reach out to one of the services listed below.
Bravehearts – https://bravehearts.org.au/
The Centre Against Sexual Violence – https://www.casv.org.au/
The Centre for Women and Co – https://centreforwomen.org.au/
1800 RESPECT – https://www.1800respect.org.au
And a comprehensive list of state wide services here: https://wwild.org.au/sexual-assault-services/
Lifeline – 13 11 14
1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
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