Carrie Bickmore has broken down in tears on The Project after hearing a horrific story of child sexual abuse.
The panel was speaking about news.com.au’s #LetUsSpeak story featuring Victorian rape victim Jaime Lee Page, who finally won the battle to expose her paedophile father yesterday.
In telling the harrowing story of her “dark childhood”, Jaime – who spearheaded the #LetUsSpeak campaign in August this year – said she used to keep 30 cents under her pillow in hopes she’d be able to escape and call for help on a payphone.
“It’s just so evil, to imagine a little girl with 30 cents under her pillow, hoping to make a phone call to freedom,” Bickmore said.
“Jaime should be able to scream from the rooftops whatever she wants to scream, and to know that she can now … Sorry, I’m actually,” she stopped, struggling through tears.
Peter Helliar stepped in, saying: “I don’t think we understand how much courage it actually takes for somebody to speak up against power … That is an incredibly strong woman,” he said.
Jaime, now a mother herself, was finally able to unmask her attacker, thanks to her eight-month fight for the removal of a gag law that prevented sexual assault victims from revealing their names or stories.
She was just eight when her biological father – David Hodson – began sexually abusing her. He was also terrorising Jaime’s older stepsister, Carol, who he later murdered in 1997 after she reported him to police.
“When Carol found out what happened to me, she came forward to the police to try and protect me,” Jaime told news.com.au, “but unfortunately by doing that, she angered my father.”
Police obtained seminal DNA evidence from Carol’s clothing, and in June 1996, Hodson was charged with rape, gross indecency and bestiality for sickening abuse he’d perpetrated on the family dog.
As the lead witness, Carol went into hiding, where she remained for several months. But just four days before she was due to give evidence, Hodson tracked her down using the services of a private investigator.
“I was at home one morning and a news clip came on,” Jaime says. “A woman had been gunned down in her car on the way to work and the man had also tried to kill himself. I just thought, ‘What a terrible story.’
“Then they had another clip and it showed my father being wheeled out on a stretcher to the air ambulance. I could see the tattoo on his hand that I had seen so many times in my life, and I just knew it was my father.
“I fell to the ground; I was shocked. I was screaming. I wanted my sister back.”
Hodson was sentenced to 24 years’ jail in 1998 on a single murder count – with the sexual abuse allegations dropped after Carol’s death.
In April 2018, police told Jaime that Hodson had been scheduled for parole and would not have to register as a sex offender.
“I was terrified. Not just for my own children. I wouldn’t want him living next to any family with kids,” Jaime said.
“I thought, if he gets out of jail and is unknown as the sex offender and monster that he is, and the public have no idea of the disgusting crimes he committed against me and my sister, then that’s dangerous. It’s not right.
“So I dug really deep, I found a place where I could share what had happened to me and I came forward and I guess you could say I bravely told my story of my childhood experiences: My horror, my hell.”
Hodson was found guilty of sexual assault crimes and sentenced to a further nine years jail in 2019. In upsetting news for Jaime, he will be eligible for parole in 2022.
Landmark new laws that Jaime has been fighting for come into effect today, and will allow tens of thousands of Victorian rape survivors to self-identify in media.