This is the email I sent to MP Jenny Macklin (I will also post her reply when I receive it):
Dear Ms. Macklin,
Ten years ago I discovered that my, then, husband (now, ex-husband) was accessing child pornography.
I had no idea what to do. I was completely shattered and overwhelmed. This is the person who I married, that I knew and loved more than anyone, who I trusted and planned to start a family with; and he was titillated by images of children being abused. We tried to access counselling and the counsellor was horrifically inappropriate and made reference to a film, of the time, that had sexual elements to it. People around me were so horrified by the thought of child pornography, and so wanted to distance themselves from it, that they also ostracised me. Only a year before this happened, my ex-husband and I had moved interstate so I did not have good, local networks. The close friend that I did have would not let me stay a few nights at her home, when I left my husband, as she did not want to get involved.
I was studying full-time and my ex-husband was supporting me financially so all at the same time I learned this hideous truth about my partner, I ended my relationship, I had to leave my course, find a job and find alternative accommodation. I was so stigmatised through being this man’s wife that I was unable to access any formal or informal support.
With my world being pulled out from under me, I did not immediately realise that I could or should report my ex-husband’s activities to the police. Can you imagine phoning the police to report someone who you love? It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I did not want to attend or phone my local poliasce station as I worried that they would not have the experience and ability to be compassionate to me and show empathy for my situation and how difficult making a report was for me. I spent hours, on-line, trying to find details of a specialist section of the police that I could contact. It was difficult to find the information I needed and took solid hours of searching on the internet. Eventually, I found details of the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (SOCA) unit and it appeared that this would be the appropriate police department to call. I call my regional/local number and it rang out, no-one answered, several times. I tried again the next day and the same thing happened. I then called the head office for the same team and my call went through to answering machine, again, several times. Eventually, I got the courage to call the head office, again, and leave a message on their answering machine. Someone called me back the next day while I was at work in my open-plan, shared office. I ran out to a corridor and tried to find a door to provide me with some degree of privacy. The caller said I needed to make yet another phone-call which I did and which was equally as difficult and frustrating as the attempts I have detailed.
Ten years ago, the Child Wise National Child Prevention Helpline http://www.childwise.net/Help-Advice/child-wise-national-child-abuse-prevention-helpline.html was not available for me when I needed it and I really needed it. It was harrowing to make the calls that I did without any support or advice being available. I imagine that most people in my situation would have given up and that there are countless individuals accessing images of child abuse, and engaging in other types of abuse, who are not reported, in part, because people do not how to make a report or who to report to or because they try to report and have an experience like mine.
As more Australians have recently being charged with offences relating to child pornography, and child pornography being in the media, with news reports emphasising that several of the men recently charged are fathers who were at home with their families at the time of their arrest my attention has been brought back to partners and wives, like I was, and what they can do if they find themselves in this situation. Men charged with child pornography offences are known by wives, partners, friends and neighbours; they are people in our community and often someone close to them has a suspicion that something is not quite right. It is a difficult phone-call to make whether it be someone’s husband or someone else they know. It takes courage to make a call like this being aware of what the consequences could be for the person involved in the abuse if the call is made and also being aware of what the consequences are for the abused children if the call is not made.
Many people will not ring back if a call rings out, goes to answering machine or is not available at the time that they got the courage to make the call. Most people, unlike me, will not persevere and risk making such a call from their workplace during business hours. The Child Abuse Prevention Helpline needs to be available twenty-four hours every day so that in the moment that a person has the courage to ring, whatever time of day it is, the call will be answered. It needs to be a full-time service so that people can ring in privacy, after-hours, when others in their household are asleep or not around. The service needs to be available at the time that abuse is recognised or suspected, an intervention may be possible overnight, rather than waiting until nine o’clock the next morning.
As a person who did not have access to a specialised helpline when I needed support and advice, I call on you as the Minister for families and community services, to listen to and act on the Child Wise ‘Listen Up’ campaign and to ensure that this service is available, and funded, 24/7. Trying to call services and access the police was one of the worst parts of an already terrible experience, for me, it would have reduced my anguish and made it easier for me to follow through and make a report had I been able to access a helpline with qualified counsellors when I needed it.
Please ‘Listen Up’ and enable this service to be available 24/7.