‘IT’S BEEN A LONG ROAD’

Great Southern Herald - - Front Page - Talitha Wolfe

Vic­tims of no­to­ri­ous Katan­ning pae­dophile Den­nis McKenna have wel­comed laws to re­move a lim­i­ta­tion de­fence pre­vent­ing vic­tims of child sex abuse re­ceiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion.

Re­lief was the feel­ing that washed over sur­vivor Todd Jef­feris when the laws to re­move a lim­i­ta­tion de­fence pre­vent­ing him from seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for child sex abuse passed State Par­lia­ment on Tues­day, April 10.

Pre­vi­ously, sur­vivors of child sex­ual abuse had to seek dam­ages within six years but now they will be able to seek jus­tice and com­pen­sa­tion in civil courts, re­gard­less of how many years ago the abuse hap­pened.

Mr Jef­feris, who was in­stru­men­tal in re­veal­ing the ex­tent of pae­dophile Den­nis McKenna’s abuse at St An­drew’s Hos­tel in Katan­ning, was 17 years old when the groom­ing and sub­se­quent abuse by McKenna be­gan.

Now 45, the Albany man said these changes would al­low abuse vic­tims to seek jus­tice for the ab­hor­rent crimes against them.

“In the past . . . we were all just given a medi­ocre amount — we were told ‘this is (an) ex gra­tia (pay­ment), here you go, take it and shut up’,” he said.

“It gives us the av­enue to pur­sue the Gov­ern­ment to get a rea­son­able amount of com­pen­sa­tion, which we’ve never had the av­enue to do be­fore.

“For what went on and what hap­pened to us, and not only the sex­ual abuse but the psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse that goes with it. And, of course, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of car­ry­ing that through the rest of your life.”

The Bill will pro­vide a le­gal ba­sis for su­ing in­sti­tu­tions in the name of their cur­rent of­fice hold­ers for his­tor­i­cal child sex­ual abuse and in­cludes pro­vi­sions to over­come the dif­fi­cul­ties sur­vivors may face in iden­ti­fy­ing a proper de­fen­dant.

The Bill also en­sures sur­vivors are treated fairly by in­tro­duc­ing a cap on the le­gal fees that may be charged to a plain­tiff in child sex­ual abuse cases.

Ac­cord­ing to the Royal Com­mis­sion into In­sti­tu­tional Re­sponses to Child Sex­ual Abuse, the av­er­age elapsed time for a sur­vivor to dis­close child sex­ual abuse is 22 years.

“It was re­lief . . . I’m happy that it’s gone through, it’s been a long road,” Mr Jef­feris said.

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

ABOVE: McKenna vic­tim Todd Jef­feris.

RIGHT: Den­nis McKenna.

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