EXCLUSIVE

Landmark new laws scheduled to come into effect tomorrow will allow tens of thousands of Victorian rape survivors to self-identify in media, as the woman who started the #LetUsSpeak campaign finally reveals her real name and the identity of man who abused her.

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David Hodson, one of Victoria's most sadistic paedophiles and rapists can finally be unmasked, after one of his victims - his biological daughter, Jaime Lee Page - won an eight month legal battle to reveal her real name and the chilling details of what happened in the "house of horrors" she grew up in.

Hodson, who is also a convicted murderer, spent years sexually terrorising his young daughter Jaime, and her older stepsister Carol, who he later murdered in 1997, after she reported the frequent rapes and incest to police, along with allegations of bestiality involving the family dog.

Until now, an oppressive sexual assault victim gag law which has prevented Jaime from revealing her own name, has also served to protect Hodson, because there has been no way to reveal his identity without also indirectly revealing Jaime's identity too.

Today, after a lengthy eight-month legal fight which has cost tens of thousands of dollars, Jaime has finally won the right to reveal her real name, and with it, the details of her "dark childhood".

In the process, she has also produced landmark law reforms which are set to restore agency, voice and identity to tens of thousands of sexual assault survivors, after she spearheaded the #LetUsSpeak campaign in August this year.

As those new laws prepare to come into effect tomorrow, Jaime is finally revealing her whole story and the full, never-heard-before events which triggered the #LetUsSpeak campaign.

JAIME LEE PAGE: THIS IS MY STORY

"The first time it happened, I was eight years old," says Jaime Lee Page, a 40-year-old mother of three from Melbourne.

"He came into my room at night and asked if I wanted to play a game. I didn't understand what was happening to me. I was so young and so confused and I thought 'is this what every father does?'"

Jaime was eight years old when the horrific abuse began. Picture: Supplied
Jaime was eight years old when the horrific abuse began. Picture: Supplied

From then on, Jaime's father, David Hodson repeatedly raped and molested his daughter, until, at age 12, she finally attempted suicide.

"I just couldn't do it anymore. He had threatened to kill me or hurt my family, or kill my animals if I told anyone what was going on. I was only 12, I'd just started high school."

Jaime thought her darkest hour was behind her, but yet worse lay in store.

When Jaime turned 16, her older stepsister Carol reported to Mill Park police station that she, too, had endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of Hodson.

"When Carol found out what happened to me, she came forward to the police to try and protect me," Jaime says, "But unfortunately by doing that, she angered my father."

Jaime endured four years of terror at the hands of her father. Picture: Supplied
Jaime endured four years of terror at the hands of her father. Picture: Supplied

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'.

Jaime has decided to speak to get justice for Carol, pictured, and herself. Picture: Supplied
Jaime has decided to speak to get justice for Carol, pictured, and herself. Picture: Supplied

 

"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 had shot Carol three times in broad daylight outside her workplace in Mordialloc. She died immediately.

Carol was murdered by her father after she told police about his actions. Picture: Supplied
Carol was murdered by her father after she told police about his actions. Picture: Supplied

Jaime and a friend rushed to the hospital where Hodson was being treated for a superficial self-inflicted gunshot wound.

But Hodson recovered and in the weeks that followed, he was charged with murder.

To Jaime's dismay, Carol's own mother, Sue Morris, then married Hodson in a prison wedding. The nuptials meant she would never have to testify against him.

"It made me sick. The wedding was at Port Phillip prison. They even sent me an invitation. It was a gigantic slap in the face to Carol. I wanted nothing to do with it" Jaime says.

That was in 1997. With Carol no longer alive to testify, and Jaime - who was still a child - far too traumatised to face court, police dropped the sexual abuse charges and instead pursued the single murder count. In 1998, Hodson was found guilty and sentenced to 24 years jail.

David Hodson can now be legally named after his daughter Jaime’s long legal battle. Picture: Supplied
David Hodson can now be legally named after his daughter Jaime’s long legal battle. Picture: Supplied

'I NEED TO HONOUR MY SISTER. SHE STILL NEEDS JUSTICE'

For two decades, Jaime Lee Page tried to move on with her life and not think about the horrific "monster" who had tormented her entire childhood.

But in April 2018, she received a knock at the door.

It was police telling her that Hodson had been scheduled for parole and, having never been convicted of any sexual crimes, 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" says Jaime, now a mother herself.

"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."

Jaime Lee Page has fought for eight months for the right to tell her story. Picture: David Caird
Jaime Lee Page has fought for eight months for the right to tell her story. Picture: David Caird

At first Hodson denied the sexual abuse allegations, but after Jaimie withstood a lengthy cross examination, he converted his plea to guilty in 2019, and was sentenced to a further nine years jail.

"I cheered out loud, because that was the moment my sister deserved, that I deserved. It was justice well done," she says.

Sadly, though, Jaime's relief was short-lived.

While the conviction has stuck, Hodson appealed the length of the sentence, and by March this year, it was dramatically slashed, meaning that once again he will be eligible for parole in 2022.

The news devastated Jaime and her family.

"I think that broke me, that was the day that broke me. I felt absolutely disgusted with the court system. I felt alone, let down."

LET US SPEAK

Jaime contacted News Corp journalist Sherele Moody, hoping to blow the whistle.

It was only then that Jaime learned that just weeks earlier - in February this year - a radical victim gag-law had commenced which prohibited her and all other rape victims from speaking under their real names, once charges were laid or a conviction was in place.

A de-identified story was published, but unable to name herself, her sister, or Hodson, Jaime wanted more.

"I contacted the #LetHerSpeak campaign, because they were having success in fighting similar gag laws in Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

 

 

That was in April, the same week that Tasmania reformed its own sexual assault victim gag-law.

From there Jaime began working behind the scenes with the campaign legal partner, Marque Lawyers. But unlike equivalent cases in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, there was no precedent in Victoria for Jaime to follow.

Jaime joined the #LetUsSpeak to fight for the rights of Victorian victims and survivors. Picture: David Caird
Jaime joined the #LetUsSpeak to fight for the rights of Victorian victims and survivors. Picture: David Caird

"At that stage, the Victorian courts were not even aware that this law had come in," Michael Bradley, managing partner of Marque Lawyers, says. "It was an illogical, incoherent mess. They had no process to even deal with her request to obtain an exemption."

To make matters more complicated, Victoria's Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy, outright refused to admit that the new law which her Government had introduced in February had created the problems and red tape which Jaime was now bound up in.

 

 

"I was so angry," Jaime says. "No one in a position of power would listen when we tried to explain what was going on. No one cared that I was at home suffering."

Across June and July, multiple letters outlining the legal reality of the botched law were sent to the Government on Jaime's behalf, but by August, with still no commitment forthcoming from the Government to reform the gag law, Jaime and fellow sexual assault survivor, Nicole Lee, bravely decided that they would front a Victoria specific campaign.

Later that month: #LetUsSpeak was launched.

Within hours of launch, the campaign went viral and was picked up by media around the world. Over 200,000 people signed a petition for law reform and donations began rolling in to a GoFundMe page set up to assist with Jaime and Nicole's legal fees.

When the original goal amount of $20,000 was achieved, the campaign expanded, and to date, 11 sexual assault survivors have now secured their court orders via support from the Campaign GoFundMe and Marque Lawyers.

 

 

But behind the scenes Jaime was suffering. In June the courts had informed her lawyers that she would need to seek her father's permission to reveal her own name.

In September, after she refused, an officer for the court forwarded her application to her offender anyway.

"I felt so angry. I felt violated. They had no right to share my information with my father," Jaime says. "He's a predator. He's in jail for a reason. It angered me that they would even think that his opinion mattered."

Jaime's lawyer lodged a complaint about the court officer responsible, a copy of which was sent to Hennessy's office.

But four days later, the campaign learned that the Department of Justice and Community Safety had now appointed that same officer as the key point of contact for all sexual assault victims who were seeking court orders to be named.

 

The decision outraged many victims. Picture: Supplied
The decision outraged many victims. Picture: Supplied

 

 

"It was a farce" says Dr Rachael Burgin, lecturer of law at Swinburne Law School and Chair of RASARA, a partner organisation to the #LetUsSpeak campaign.

"At every point, the process was failing survivors and exacerbating their trauma and distress."

Publicly, though, the Government was telling a very different story, boasting to media that the process had been successfully "streamlined".

Then, in October, as Jaime's legal battle ticked over into its seventh month, the campaign was dealt another blow.

Embedded within draft legislation intended to amend the gag on living sexual assault survivors, was a nasty thorn: while living victims would get their voices back, the Government proposed introducing a new gag on the names of deceased rape victims - including Jill Meagher, Aiia Maasarwe and Eurydice Dixon.

Worse, the proposed gag on dead victims would also prevent Jaime from ever naming her beloved sister Carol.

"The main reason I was doing all this was to honour my sister, my beautiful sister who no longer has a voice," she says.

"I remember speaking at my sister's funeral all those years ago and I made a promise to Carol that no one will ever, ever forget you.

"So when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I decided to honour Carol by giving that name as my daughter's middle name.

"And my daughter now embodies all the things that Carol was: she's brave, smart, kind, cheeky, funny. My children are so proud to hear stories about Aunty Carol and even though they may have never met her, they love her and they're very aware of the amazing person that she was …. She died trying to save me. She's my hero and she'll always be my hero."

Jaime holding a picture of herself as a child. Picture: David Caird
Jaime holding a picture of herself as a child. Picture: David Caird

WE WILL FIGHT IT

An emergency meeting was called between the #LetUsSpeak campaign partners, and the decision was made to run "a campaign within a campaign", to fight the proposed gag on deceased victims' names.

Following the launch in October, more than 4000 letters were sent to parliamentarians via the campaign, condemning the Government's proposed gag.

Jill Meagher's mother, Edith McKeon, wrote a public statement declaring that she was "f -king fuming" that grieving relatives - who had not even been consulted on the proposed ban - could face up to four months jail, if they continued to name their deceased loved one.

She was joined by John Herron, the father of murder victim Courtney Herron, and Saaed Maasarwe - the father of slain rape victim, Aiia Maasarwe, an international student whose body was found near La Trobe Bundoora campus in January last year.

"I think it would be an injustice to victims and families" said Mr Maasarwe of the proposed gag.

Eventually, even the mother of Jill Meagher's murderer, Adrian Bayley, weighed in, with an emotive plea to the Government not to further silence deceased victims and their grieving families.

But throughout it all, Jaime remained gagged.

"It was heartbreaking. It took me to a really dark place. I felt like giving up many times. And if all this had just been for myself, I would have given up. But my sister needed a voice. She needs a voice now. And everyone needs to know who she is," she says.

"So I kept getting out of bed and fighting for justice for her and all people like her. She died trying to save me and every other little girl - I love her, I miss her - so this was the least I could do for her."

Jaime found the strength to keep going by thinking about her stepsister Carol and the fate she suffered. Picture: David Caird
Jaime found the strength to keep going by thinking about her stepsister Carol and the fate she suffered. Picture: David Caird

JAIME'S LAW: VINDICATION AT LAST

Last week, at long last, Jaime finally won her hard fought battle.

Represented by barrister Michelle Zammit, she secured her court order, meaning she can now name herself, and by extension, her sister Carol and the man who abused the them: David Hodson.

At the same hearing Judge Michael McInerney also threw out a spurious argument launched by the Department of Public Prosecutions who tried, in vein, to claim that it is already a crime to name deceased rape victims. (The Act does not mention dead people at all).

That decision by the Judge then set off a ripple effect throughout parliament, which ultimately led to a cross bench revolt against the Government's intended ban on naming deceased rape victims.

So, last Tuesday, following almost eight hours of heated parliamentary debate, the opposition, in partnership with the Greens and several cross benches forced an amendment to the Bill.

The result: Not only has the Government's attempted ban on deceased victim's names been thwarted in its tracks, but tomorrow new laws will be introduced which will allow living sexual assault survivors to reclaim their voices and identities.

 

 

"Nothing at all was easy in any of this," says Jaime, "but I feel amazing the law is actually going to change. I am immensely proud. The law should never, ever, ever have been in place, but it turns out people do actually want to listen to survivors: they want to hear us.

Because of Jaime's advocacy and the #LetUsSpeak campaign, the new laws will also grant survivors in Victoria powers they have never had before, including the ability to tailor their consent regarding which media outlet can name them and what details can be included.

"This is a significant moment" says Dr Burgin, Chairperson of RASARA. "In this way, the laws are making history by giving survivors more control over their narratives than they have ever had in the past.

As for Jaime she says that after an exhausting eight months, she is proud to have ultimately succeeded.

"I think one day, when my children understand all this, they will say 'my mum was brave, she came forward to pave the way for other survivors to be able to share their stories.' "And that's what I want them to learn: you need to fight for what is right, and even in the darkest of days, you don't give up."

"And I know my sister would be so proud. I can now look up towards the sky and know that she's at peace and justice has finally been served for my sister.

To donate towards Jaime Lee Page's remaining legal costs, visit the #LetUsSpeak GoFundMe.

Nina Funnell is the creator of the #LetUsSpeak campaign in partnership with Rape & Sexual Assault Research & Advocacy, EROC Australia and Marque Lawyers. This journalism was partly funded with support from the Walkley Public Fund. For more watch The Project at 6.30pm on Channel 10.

 

 

 

Originally published as Daughter finally unmasks paedophile dad


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