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HomeNewsJustice Shouldn’t Hurt: Hey Dad! star Sarah Monahan supports crucial petition

Justice Shouldn’t Hurt: Hey Dad! star Sarah Monahan supports crucial petition

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Former Hey Dad! child star and sexual abuse survivor, Sarah Monahan, has joined thousands of Australians in throwing her support behind a campaign to help child sexual abuse survivors.

On Monday, news.com.au exclusively revealed the stories of Rose and Pippa Milthorpe, aged 14 and 17 respectively.

The sisters were just 7 and 11 when they went to court to give evidence in the trial of their abuser. Both say the court process left them more traumatised, despite getting a partial conviction.

The offender was convicted of six of eight charges of indecent assault against Pippa. Those against Rose were ultimately dismissed due to her age.

Now, thousands of Australians have joined the call for the NSW Attorney-General’s office to expand a pilot program designed to make court less traumatic for children in sexual offence cases.

Justice shouldn’t hurt, but for children in Australia, it does. The NSW Government knows how to fix this problem, but has failed to do so. That’s why news.com.au is calling for law reform to make it easier for child victims of sexual abuse to give evidence. Join the movement and sign the petition here.

Monahan has thrown her support behind the campaign, urging her social media followers to sign the petition to have the Child Sexual Offence Evidence pilot scheme made permanent.

“I went through court as an adult, and it broke me. I can’t imagine it as a child,” she said.

In March 2010, Monahan publicly disclosed that she had been sexually abused on the set of Hey Dad! by Robert Hughes, the actor who played her on-screen father.

Hughes was arrested in London in August 2012, before being extradited to Australia in April 2014.

He was convicted of 10 sexual and indecent assault charges against girls in the 1980s and was handed a maximum prison term of 10 years and nine months.

The 73-year-old convicted paedophile was released from prison in June this year after serving more than six years behind bars.

He fled Australia following his release and relocated to the UK.

Monahan said the court process was so difficult for her that she considered ending her own life on the last day of proceedings.

“The court process was actually more traumatic to me than the abuse, which I had learned to live with,” she said.

“These two girls are trying to make it better for all of us.”

In another social media post, Monahan praised Pippa and Rose for their courage in speaking out about what had happened to them.

“My heart breaks for Rose and Pippa, but I’m so encouraged by their strength to stand up and make change,” she wrote.

For Rose and Pippa’s mum, Michelle Milthorpe, seeing Hughes’ court case play out in 2014 was a particularly significant event as, during that time, her daughters were waiting for their own chance to give evidence in court against their own abuser.

Hughes’ case was one of two particularly high profile paedophilia cases hit the news during this time.

The second was Rolf Harris, a children’s entertainer who was also convicted just a few months later and sentenced to five years and nine months jail.

“Around that time, I remember comments from colleagues and acquaintances when newspapers were left out on tables,” Michelle said.

“They would say things like: ‘Oh look another one has just come forward to get her 15 minutes of fame’, ‘Why would she wait all that time to come forward? There must be a payout in it!’, ‘He’s so old, why would you put him in jail now? That doesn’t seem fair?’

“I heard these comments in public, at work, in the media and on social media, often by people who had no idea of the prevalence or impact of sexual abuse.”

Not only was Michelle appalled at the uninformed attitudes towards the accusers in the Hughes and Harris cases, she and her partner Brent also worried about what their own girls would face when they eventually got their case in court.

Thousands of Aussies join the fight

The Change.org petition calling for the Child Sexual Offence Evidence pilot scheme to be made permanent in NSW gained more than 20,000 signatures in a single day.

At the time of publishing this article, the petition had more than 30,000 signatures, with that number ticking up every few minutes.

Many Australians have been shocked to learn just how difficult the current court process can be for child victims of sexual abuse.

“It’s disgraceful we have reached the point as a nation where we even need to petition for this to get over the line,” one person wrote after signing the petition.

“My heart breaks that any child should be put through such a harrowing process after the trauma they have already endured,” another said.

Another person claimed the current legal structures “reinforce powerlessness in these young victims we all should be protecting”.

One person pointed out that all children should have equal access to the program and their postcodes should “definitely never decide where services will be allocated for children”.

The pilot scheme is currently only available to survivors who fall under the jurisdictions of the Newcastle and Downing Centre (Sydney) District Courts.

“This is just so unfair to rural and regional abused children. Fix it,” said another person.

Story Credit: news.com.au

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