|Malcolm and Mem Fox|
I'm not speaking out of line. He has been convicted. I have refused to discuss this case, or how I feel about the defendant and his wife's attitudes about this until there was a verdict. But it has been handed down. He was found guilty.
He was a teacher, and this student confided in him. Talked to him about sexual abuse he had been subjected to already. Mr Fox then took advantage of his position of trust and authority and had 4 sexual encounters with the teenager.
I'm not going to get into his wife, and who she is or what she is known for. You can google it if you don't now, but most of you will. She was not on trial, though her staunch support and attacks on the victim have forever tainted her for me and have lost her more than one fan. I cannot condone her attitude. Even if she believed her husband, in a case such as this, I believe she should have refused to make any public statement until the trial was over, rather than choosing to go on the attack. But she has to live with that now. She has to live with knowing that the man she has been married to for 40 years slept with a teenage boy on more than one occasion. Enough said.
You can read more about the case, and the more intimate details (should you wish) here.
But my anger is reserved for Mr Fox and the presiding judge in this case. (I have to be cautious here, for legal reasons, but his name can be found in any of the news links I have provided, and I will not edit his name out of quotes). And oh, how the anger burns. I was too distressed last night to post about this. It was too close to home. Today, I'll have my say (though I am going to attempt, somehow to keep this calm and rational).
First though, from abcnews.net.au:
Psychiatric reports tendered during sentencing submissions said Fox believed the victim had "stolen his reputation".
He said he viewed his wife's fame as both a blessing and a curse because of the intense media attention his case has attracted.
Judge Gordon Barrett told Fox: "Your illness is a result of these proceedings. The case has attracted much media attention due in part to your own career but also the fame of your family.
"Your illness would be made significantly worse if a sentence was not suspended. I accept that incarceration would cause your mental health to suffer significantly.
"I can accept that illness would likely be exacerbated and would make imprisonment much more difficult for you than for others. That is one of several reasons why I think a more merciful approach is called for."
Judge Barrett said Fox was highly-regarded among his peers and had enjoyed a "long and meritorious professional life". Three people gave verbal evidence on Fox's character during sentencing submissions and a further 16 provided written references to the court.
They included past students, friends and colleagues.
Judge Barrett set a head sentence of four years with a non-parole term of two years, but suspended the sentence.
Fox was put on a $1,000 good behaviour bond for three years. He walked from court with his arm around his wife and made no comment about the case.
I am informed that the correct way to address you would be "The Honourable Justice..". I'm afraid I must respectfully state that after yesterday, I simply cannot. I cannot find any honour at all in your decision to let a convicted sex offender walk out of your court without a custodial sentence being imposed.
You stated that the defendant, Mr Malcolm Fox had developed a mental illness because of the stress of the trial and that serving any time in prison would be detrimental to his mental health. Instead, you gave him a 4 year sentence, suspended. He walked free. Arm in arm with his wife, to pose and kiss and even laugh in front of cameras.
I suffer from more than one mental illness, so I can appreciate one's concern about placing a mentally ill person in a situation that will exacerbate their condition. I honestly can. And under almost any other circumstances, I would applaud your compassion.
But I am also the victim of a sexual assault. I was molested by a trusted family member when I was a little girl. A man in authority, respected by our entire community. A man I knew noone would believe capable of what he subjected my sisters and I to. A man who never served a day in prison for what, after his death, was revealed to be a lifetime of assaults on children of both genders. Countless came forward after he freely abused minors for 30-40 years.
So you will, I hope, understand the way that I, and so many people who have suffered at the hand of sexual predators are feeling today. We, to put it mildly, feel betrayed by you. We feel betrayed by the criminal 'justice' system. Hell, we feel betrayed by the whole damned world. Again.
I'm sure as a judge, you are aware of just how many molestation and rape cases go unreported in this country. How many children are too afraid to speak of crimes committed against them. How many women are too traumatised to go through a court proceding where they know they will be the one attacked. As though there is any justification for sexual crime. As though there can ever be justification for sexual attacks. As though anyone deserves to have their innocence and their trust quite literally stolen from them, in an instant.
You know this case better than I do. You must, you heard evidence that I'm sure noone else did. The blame rests entirely on you and the defendant. And you came to the conclusion that the man involved, the victim, was telling the truth. You stated that you believed that Mr Fox was lying outright and that you felt his defense was 'entirely unreasonable'. That Mr Fox had indeed abused the nature of their relationship and engaged in sexual acts with his student. YOU decided he was guilty. Not a jury. Not the media. YOU.
So how, how, is it possible that you and our entire criminal justice system feel that the wellbeing and emotional/mental health of the offender was more important to you than that of the victim? Is it because the victim is now an adult, and waited to speak out? Is that why you were so lenient?
If it was, please, let me break it to you gently. There are very, very few things that a child (and I'm sorry, but a minor is a minor. It is your justice system that decided this) can go through that are more traumatic than being sexually abused. Except perhaps being sexually abused by someone they trusted. And I remind you, I know. The man who molested me was one of the people I trusted most in the world. And while you a)probably care not and b)are not entitled to know the details of my case, I can tell you of the shock I felt while it was happening. The utter disbelief and fear I experienced.
My entire world shifted on its axis. This may sound melodramatic to you. But imagine, if you can, being a 10 year old girl and having someone you love and trust implicitly corner you in your bedroom. The strange feeling you get that something is not right here. The 'logical' side of you dismissing your own gut instincts, assuring you that you are overreacting, that it is simply impossible. Feeling guilty for even imagining it were possible.
Then the cold feeling, ice in your veins, but heat in your brain as it whirls, trying to process the unthinkable - that you were right. He really is. He really is touching you there. He is murmuring words your brain literally cannot process as he tries at first to distract you from what his hands are doing. He keeps his icy blue eyes fixed on yours, you're unable to look down and see what he is doing right away.
You can hear your heartbeat pounding so loudly in your ears, as the first hit of adrenaline kicks in - the body's natural fight or flight response flowing through your veins.
Except when you're a child, that fight or flight response isn't necessarily fully developed. The judgement part of your brain is certainly not, and you don't really understand that those two options are valid. You are worried about being 'rude' to a person in authority. Of hurting their feelings, even. Of getting into trouble. It makes no sense to an adult, but those were the things going through my head as my grandfather put his filthy hands all over me.
And so most of us don't report. Young children because they are afraid that they did something wrong. Older children, teenagers, because they are embarrassed. Ashamed, humiliated. Grown men and women because they know that either a)they will not be believed or b)they know that a trial will be hell for them.
And I'm sorry Judge, but it is because of people like you, and the defense attourney and the system that this is the case. That tens of thousands of sexual pretators go about their daily lives, offending again and again. Because almost none of them will see the inside of a cell.
And your reasons for suspending his sentence. Oh, your reasons, how they made my stomach heave and my heart hurt! You are worried for his mental health? Did it occur to you what sexual assault does to the mental health of a victim? Do you think it a co-incidence that so many mentally ill patients have a history of sexual assault in the backgrounds?
I have Bipolar Disorder. I have an anxiety disorder. I am once again in the midst of a severe major depressive episode. I have social anxiety, agoraphobia and panic attacks. I was bulimic as a teenager. I have PTSD and OCD. I suffered severe PND after the births of both of my children. And in all these cases, my psychologists indicated that the molestation was a large contributing factor.
I was attacked. It may not have been violent. There was no 'violence', no screams, no kicks, no punches, no threats of death. It was my soul that was attacked. My innocence and my childhood. It was an attack on the very person I was supposed to become. She died that day. Never saw the world or anyone in it the same way again. Her childhood was over. I became someone else, was forcibly placed on an entirely different path.
I don't think it unreasonable to believe that the victim in the Malcolm Fox case fared much better, from the attacks by Mr Fox and those he was confiding in Mr Fox about. In his own words:
I'm gutted and I don't understand," said Craig, who did not want his surname used. "Fox was portrayed in court as the victim but his problems only began upon his arrest. I have a life sentence and have been dealing with the effects of his crimes since they happened."
And before you tell me that a 17 year old is different to a 10 year old, let me again, remind you that I did not set the law. It is irrelevant whether you consider that the 'affair' was consensual (and while we're here, I take exception to the use of the word 'affair' in this case. It waters down what was first of all a criminal act and second of all still the act of a predator who used his position of trust and authority for his own sexual gratification). It was illegal.
And yesterday, you just let a convicted criminal walk free. More than that, you sentenced more child sexual assault victims to a lifetime of betrayal.
Do you have any concept of the message that you sent out yesterday to victims of sexual abuse? You told us that we matter less than the 'reputation' and mental health of our abusers. Especially if they are wealthy enough to hire a top criminal defence attourney; are well known or 'esteemed' within their community. That somehow, it was also our fault, and when we step up and are finally brave enough to report it, we are the ones doing harm. That the harm and anguish we have suffered for years is of little matter to the court.
Do you know the message you sent out to the tens of thousands of children that will be molested in the coming years, most of them by someone they know? "Don't bother reporting this. You're right. He (or she) really is too big, too powerful. Noone will believe you. It's your fault. You really will get into trouble. Don't fight. It's not worth it. You're not worth it".
Next week is Child Protection Week here in Queensland. The irony burns. What am I supposed to tell my children?
Yours, hurt and angry, but sincerely,
One of thousands you just let down.