The sentencing of Families SA paedophile Shannon McCoole is the end of a chapter in one of our State’s most appalling child sex abuse cases.
But, we all must remember that this is only a chapter in a book where there is still much to be written.
Indeed, what appears on the next page will say much about our community and the way we care for its tiniest members.
The victims of this horrendous crime could not be more vulnerable. Toddlers and pre-schoolers, too young and too defenceless to have a meaningful voice.
My experience, amassed over several decades as a lawyer and advocate for child sex abuse victims, tells me the true and profound damage is yet to reveal itself.
It can take ten, twenty, thirty years before victims can even consider talking about it.
They often struggle with self-esteem, trust, confidence and almost unbelievably, guilt that they were somehow complicit in such a despicable act.
Speaking for the first time is a profound moment.
So how do we support them? How do we ensure that their needs are met, not just now but throughout their lives?
Again, my legal experience has shown that the ability to say sorry and accept blame is a significant first step.
It’s what has been missing in previous cases of this nature where weaving and ducking from responsibility has been the preferred modus operandi.
This time though, there is every indication that lessons have been learned and from a legal perspective, I commend Families SA for taking responsibility so quickly.
An apology won’t undo what’s happened but this simple acknowledgement has great power to provide solace to those whose pain is almost too much to bear.
Compensation will also help as these children grow up and navigate the challenging teenage years.
Money that can pay for the tremendous amount of emotional and mental support the victims will need.
It’s a long road ahead for all. A conviction and a jail sentence is not the end. For the victims, it’s really just the beginning.