News

Woman ‘mentally scarred’ over historical sexual assaults

By Liz Mellino

A woman who was sexually assaulted as a child has been left mentally scarred and with memories that have destroyed her life, a court has heard.

A victim impact statement was read out in the County Court in Shepparton yesterday after a man, 84, who The News is not naming because of legal reasons, pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual assault against his stepdaughter dating back almost 50 years.

The man pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent assault and one charge of incest from separate incidents that occurred between 1966 and 1971 at their family home in a town in northern Victoria.

The court heard the victim reported the abuse to her mother — the man’s partner — around the time of the offending, but her mother did not believe her.

The woman reported the abuse she suffered as a girl to police in November 2017, and an investigation was launched.

The court heard the victim, who was aged between 12 and 16 during the time of the offences, had been left with low self-esteem and trust issues.

‘‘He should have been looking after me and protecting me from harm, however, he continued to take advantage of me,’’ the statement read.

Following the incidents, the victim said she did not join in with family activities due to fear of being assaulted and was left with traumatic memories, which had significantly impacted her life.

The court heard the victim married at 18 years of age to ‘‘escape’’ the family home of her stepfather, however this marriage along with her second marriage both failed.

The victim said she now had trouble sleeping, felt isolated from her family and had received limited support from those closest to her.

‘‘I have to live with this for the rest of my life — it takes a lot of courage to come forward at the hands of the person I thought I could trust,’’ the statement read.

Prosecutor Andrew Moore told the court the victim tried to tell her mother, who was married to the accused at the time, about the abuse on multiple occasions at the time it was happening.

‘‘Her mother did not believe her and told the victim that she was illegitimate and so not to bring more shame upon her,’’ Mr Moore said.

‘‘The victim did not persist with her complaint at that time.’’

After the woman reported the abuse to police in 2017, a Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team was tasked to investigate the victim’s allegations of abuse.

Mr Moore said the victim was given a digital voice recorder which she used to phone the man on two occasions and record the conversations that were had.

‘‘In that conversation the offender apologised to the victim, saying it never should have happened but then said that he hadn’t touched the victim but if he did, it was out of love for her,’’ he said.

The court heard the man was arrested on March 18 last year and a conversation was recorded between him and the police investigator at the time of his arrest.

During the recording, the man told police that it was just ‘‘one of those things that happened many years ago’’ and that it was ‘‘prevalent behaviour back then’’ and not as ‘‘obnoxious’’ as it was now.

Defence counsel Chris Terry acknowledged the serious offending of his client, saying the man had showed remorse.

‘‘He has demonstrated both insight and remorse, he has in the phone call apologised to his victim and subsequently made a written apology,’’ Mr Terry said.

Mr Terry described the man as a highly regarded member of the community in which he had lived his life, with a strong connection to local sporting clubs.

In the nearly 50 years since his offending, Mr Terry said the man, who has since remarried, had lived a life free of any other criminal offences and was ‘‘a hard-working, community-minded contributing member of society’’.

Mr Terry said the man had been seeing a clinical psychologist since early last year who had assisted him to come to a better understanding of the impact the offending would have had on the victim and to deal with his current issues of depression and anxiety.

‘‘My client has since used the almost half a century to develop a decent and respected life,’’ Mr Terry said.

‘‘Imprisonment at his age poses the risk that he will spend the rest of his life in custody and is a reality that my client faces and is a reality which operates now on his mind and will so for the duration of his sentence.’’

The man is set to be sentenced today by Judge Bill Stuart.

Editor’s note:The News has chosen not to name the offender due to legal considerations, including the potential risk of identifying the victim of the sexual assaults.

GVCASA provides free and confidential counselling, information, advocacy and support to all people who have been affected by sexual assault. The services are provided throughout Greater Shepparton, Moira, Mitchell, Murrindindi and Strathbogie shires.

People can phone 1800112343 for more information. If people want to report sexual abuse anonymously; they can visit sara.org.au