Mum’s brave jour­ney

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By LISA THOMAS

WEM­B­LEY mother Gill Hamer­s­ley is fight­ing to keep the mem­ory of her daugh­ter alive by en­sur­ing no other child has to suf­fer in si­lence.

Ms Hamer­s­ley com­peted in Brave­hearts 777 last week, tack­ling seven marathons in seven days in seven states to raise aware­ness and fundraise for vic­tims of child sex­ual as­sault in mem­ory of her daugh­ter Abbey.

Abbey took her life in 2013 at age 17 af­ter years of sex­ual as­sault at the hands of her at­tacker.

Ms Hamer­s­ley said she got in­volved with child safety group Brave­hearts af­ter Abbey’s death and wanted to ed­u­cate and pro­tect other chil­dren from the same fate.

She said she de­cided to un­der­take the enor­mous seven-day chal­lenge for the one in five chil­dren who are sex­u­ally as­saulted be­fore their 18th birth­day.

“It was the most awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence of my life,” she said.

“I ran with 20 peo­ple who all had sim­i­lar sto­ries and I made some amazing friend­ships that will last a life­time.

“Abbey was with me ev­ery step of the way. I spoke with her while I ran and told her that I wanted to turn her story into one that would help oth­ers from suf­fer­ing the way she did.”

Ms Hamer­s­ley, along with Abbey’s best friend Alexan­dra O’Brien, com­peted in the seven marathons, trav­el­ling to a new state each day af­ter com­pet­ing the gru­elling 42km marathon.

The duo raised more than $10,000 each for Brave­hearts in the lead up to the marathon, which will go to­wards coun­selling and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams in schools to help em­power young kids.

Ms Hamer­s­ley is now cam­paign­ing along with Brave­hearts founder Hetty John­ston for a royal com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate Aus­tralia’s fam­ily law sys­tem af­ter the re­lease of Abbey’s Project last month, a re­port which said the sys­tem was fail­ing chil­dren and ex­pos­ing them to fur­ther sex­ual as­sault.

She said she was also hop­ing an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram “Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show” could be brought to WA schools to help teach chil­dren as young as five to not keep se­crets and tell an adult if they feel un­safe.

“It has to be taught to young kids. It’s our most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety that are at risk and it’s ev­ery­one’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect them,” she said.

“Ev­ery child has the right to a safe child­hood.”

Abbey re­ported the abuse to po­lice but died be­fore a trial could be held.

Ms Hamer­s­ley said she wished she had the skills to help Abbey.

“Talk to your chil­dren and give them the skills to help them. We do not want to talk about it be­cause it is hor­ri­ble, but we have to,” she said.

“I tried to help her and she strug­gled so hard and was positive, but her heart was bro­ken. For Abbey it was a vi­o­la­tion of trust, which contributed to her tak­ing her own life.”

Visit https://www.brave­ au/.

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie­mu­ni­ d456826

Gill Hamer­s­ley ran seven marathons in seven states in mem­ory of her daugh­ter.

Marathon run­ners Jill Hamer­s­ley (left) with Alexan­dra O’Brien.

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