By Rachael Wong
A 74-year-old Victorian doctor, who was still working until last year, has been sentenced to 16-and-a-half years in prison, after sexually abusing his daughter for a decade.
The man began sexually touching his daughter when she was eight and progressed to penetration by the time she was 14 or 15, calling her his “little wife” or “secret wife”.
Despite giving her the morning after pill, she fell pregnant to him, after which he reprimanded her and booked an appointment under a false name for her to have an abortion.
Fearful of the repercussions and that no one would believe her, the girl didn’t tell anyone at the time. However, she was spurred to confront her father in recorded phone calls as an adult after her own daughter turned eight.
Judge Michael Tinney was scathing of the man’s lack of remorse, who unbelievably blamed his daughter for the abuse and told police it “would have been helpful if she resisted but she was too accepting and passive”.
"Your conduct was shameful and evil. It was totally destructive and perverse. You should be totally ashamed of yourself, more ashamed than you actually are," the judge told the man.
He said the crimes would impact the woman for the rest of her life.
"You betrayed every duty you owed to her as a father. You did that for close to a decade.”
"You have, simply, deliberately exploited and debased your daughter through all the formative portions of her childhood and adolescence ... caused vast harm to someone who it was your duty to love, nurture and protect," he said.
There is no question that the father’s conduct is evil and sickening beyond words. However, a question that does need asking, is: why did the abortion clinic not pick up on the abuse of this young girl by her father, when he booked her in under a false name?
A girl under 16 seeking an abortion is a red flag for sexual abuse and in such instances, it is critical that abortion clinics notify the appropriate authorities. It is unclear how old this young girl was at the time of her abortion, but even if she was not a minor, it is not unreasonable to assume that there were other signs she had been abused. Even a simple check of her identification would have shown that she had been booked in under a false name.
How many abusers have been able to conceal and continue with their abuse after forcing their victim to have an unquestioned abortion?
It is imperative that safeguards are put in place and enforced at abortion clinics, to ensure that abusers are detected, stopped and punished at the time, and not disgracefully left to continue their predatory behaviour.
Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia