It is with some trepidation I reveal that I was sexually abused by my father for the first twelve years of my life. I feel trepidation not because of privacy concerns, the effects such revelations will have on any family, friends or acquaintances that have no knowledge of my past but, rather, because I don’t want to be seen as joining the conga line of women claiming victim or survivor status as a result of a sexual crime being committed against them. I counter my fears by saying that, in my eyes, I am neither victim nor survivor. Not once in 63 years have I used either term to describe myself.
The word ‘victim’ evinces weakness and/or damage which is something I have never associated with and ‘survivor’ is a term I think more appropriately used with respect to war or natural disaster. More importantly, I am not a victim because I never brought charges against my father and therefore he was not found guilty of any crime. I am asking you to believe my untested allegation. In my defence I say that I have nothing to gain by exposing my father publicly; he is dead, he was not well known and I am not entitled to any financial compensation. I am doing it because of the frustration, anger, and despair I feel about the state of the discourse surrounding sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, ‘victims’ and ‘survivors’.
There is a popular view in some sections of the public, media, and, more disturbingly, the political class that all ‘survivors’ of sexual crimes must be believed by the allegation alone. If you or your ‘abuser’ has a public profile, all you need to do is call the likes of Louise Milligan at the ABC and make an allegation and they will produce a story naming the perpetrator, airing your allegations and it will be televised on prime-time ABC – that will set the ball rolling; your abuser will be named and shamed and cancelled. Eventually you may even consider going to the police to make a formal complaint and the police may send a brief to the DPP and it may prosecute the case and you will have your day in court. But all that legal stuff is just the icing on the cake really – the main thing is your allegation is out there, you have named and shamed the alleged offender, his reputation is being trashed and his life is well on the way to destruction now. At this stage you get to move up a rung on the Ladder of Virtue from the status of Victim to the status of Survivor. The majority of press and social media opinion is with you and the alleged offender may as well plead guilty because, in the public arena, that is what he is. If you think I’m being a bit flippant, I am not – I’m furious. From a legal perspective to call someone a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ of sexual abuse or assault, purely based on an allegation, is completely flawed – that person is a complainant. It is for the complainant to prove they have been sexually assaulted on the evidence – in the eyes of the law the complainant is not a survivor of anything until a crime has been established.
There is a popular view that with respect to sexual crimes, complainants/plaintiffs do not lie. From my experience as a paralegal at the Victorian Bar for the last 30 years, I can assure you they can and do. One either believes in the presumption of innocence and due process or one does not. In law those concepts are not applied or withdrawn depending on the crime alleged or the identity of the accused. I thought the Chamberlain case was the worst miscarriage of justice in my lifetime, until the case of Cardinal George Pell. I stood and watched the braying lynch mobs outside the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court as Pell was escorted inside by a virtual praetorian guard and I felt disgust and distress; it reminded me of depictions of Christ being taken to his crucifixion. More worryingly, I had several barristers tell me that they did not care if Pell was innocent or guilty, he must serve time – someone had to pay for the sins of the Catholic Church. If our legal officers are expressing such views what hope does our justice system have; what sort of society have we become? I had been sexually abused for my entire childhood and I did not feel such vitriol towards George Pell; was there something wrong with me – why did I want to protect him, to fight for his right to the presumption of innocence? Despite the best efforts of Victoria Police, Premier Daniel Andrews, Louise Milligan, the ABC and many others, the High Court unanimously upheld Pell’s appeal and acquitted him of all charges. Regardless of the fact an innocent man spent 404 days in gaol for crimes he could not have committed, there are many who still believe him guilty, not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of hatred.
When Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently made a grovelling apology to alleged ‘victim’ Brittany Higgins in Parliament sub judice, he set a very dangerous precedent. Morrison later claimed he was not talking specifically about the matter before the court – how craven, how disingenuous of him. Is there any depth to which a politician will not plunge to get a favourable headline or a vote?
A recent case, the allegation of sexual misconduct against federal MP Alan Tudge, resulted in his self-demotion and threatens his future in politics. A subsequent investigation and resultant report found the allegations were vexatious, with evidence that the complainant, Rachelle Miller, had been relentlessly harassing Tudge after the ending of a consensual relationship. I have to ask myself why Miller would put herself through the ordeal of public complaint (through Louise Milligan and aired on the ABC) which necessarily led to a formal investigation, the findings of which would be of great embarrassment and distress to her. What could motivate her to embark on such a self-destructive course? Could it be the lure of the Cult of Victimhood; she too could join the other Sisters on the Ladder of Virtue; she would be believed purely because she made the allegation and she would be vindicated. Why would she cooperate with the formal investigation when she had already achieved her aim – Tudge is named, shamed, demoted, and his political career possibly ended.
This destruction of peoples’ lives has to stop. We are threatening our system of justice and the moral fibre of our society.
I didn’t take my father to court; when I contemplated doing so back in the 1990s the police told me that as the offending happened so long ago it would be too hard to get a brief together. I followed months of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and had to accept the fact that I was once again being kept silent – by reason of the terms of reference no mention would be made of sexual abuse of children in their own beds, their own homes, by their parents or other family members. The effects of the crimes committed against me by my father have overshadowed my whole life. I have never been afforded justice but it is for this reason in particular I do not want to see any accused person suffering the same fate irrespective of the crime alleged, irrespective how unappealing the accused may be. I do not want to live in a society that honours victimhood and tolerates lynch mobs. I do not want to live in a society that has reverted to barbarism, where justice is not blind, where the moral compass has been lost.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10