A Warrnambool sexual assault survivor plagued by the consequences of her abusers for the past 60 years says the justice system has failed her.
Christine Boyer was sexually abused by three adult males by the age of 12.
She said the impact of the abuse was far reaching and at times terrifying - battling periods of intense depression, severe migraines, bouts of hyperventilation and suicide attempts.
In 2016, she attended Warrnambool police station and the offending was reported.
It is not uncommon for the reporting of historic sexual offending to be delayed.
Only two of her three abusers were charged and the matters were finalised in court in 2019 and 2020.
One pleaded guilty to five counts of abuse including four counts of digital rape. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and put on the sexual offenders' register.
The other perpetrator, who pleaded guilty to gross indecency with a girl under 16, was handed a $400 fine and placed on a 12-month good behavior bond.
Both offenders were charged with historic offences and given sentences relevant at the time of the offending period.
Ms Boyer said the sentences were "a slap on the wrists for paedophiles".
"It's no less of a crime even if it happened a long time ago," she said.
"The impact of abuse on people's lives is not reflected in the sentencing that would have occurred in the 50s or 60s. I think it should be changed retrospectively. We now know the effects of sexual abuse on a person's physical and mental life. This was not known in that era."
Ms Boyer said the "whole system just really stinks".
"They get off because sexual abuse wasn't deemed in the '50s and '60s to be of much importance but what they do to you, is they give you a life sentence," she said.
"They rob you of the person you were meant to be."
Ms Boyer said it took several hours to put together a police report and the process that followed was traumatic.
"I was shunned by some members of my family which was really difficult and something I didn't anticipate," she said.
"The sentence these perpetrators were given had a really bad impact on me. I suffered depression and was hospitalised for several months in 2020. I had attempted suicide again and I felt that the justice system was saying that what happened to me was of no consequence and I didn't matter."
Ms Boyer last year wrote to Premier Daniel Andrews and Wannon MP Dan Tehan with her concerns.
"Why would anybody go through the stress and turmoil of the legal process to just see the abusers slapped across the wrists?" she wrote.
"I believe that justice has not been done. Nor will it occur for others if this is not investigated and brought to the notice of the public at large."
Ms Boyer received just one generic response from Mr Tehan's office.
"It's disappointing because we need change for historical abuse sentencing and whilst I know for me it won't happen, it's important for other people," she said.
Alleged incidents of rape and sexual assault are significantly under-reported and those that are reported have a low likelihood of resulting in a conviction.
A recent Crime Statistics Agency study found most alleged sexual offence incidents don't progress past police investigations, with police identifying an offender for half of incidents reported to them and charging an offender for one in four.
Only one in seven incidents of sexual offending reported to police progress through the justice system to be proven in court.
The study found most incidents reported to police never reached court, and for those that did, it could take years for matters to be finalised.
The research also showed one in five sexual offence incidents reported to police was withdrawn by the victim-survivor prior before the police investigation concluded.
Rape incidents were the least likely to progress through the justice system, with 10 per cent of rape incidents reported to police proven in court, compared with 15 per cent of indecent assault incidents.
Overall, incidents where the perpetrator was a stranger, that involved other, non-sexual offences, and that occurred in regional Victoria, were more likely to progress through the justice system.
Mrs Boyer said she was fortunate to have strong support from her husband, David MacQueen, the south-west Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA), and Detective Senior Constable Laura Jordan, of the Warrnambool sexual offences and child abuse investigation team.
She said although the court process was difficult, she never thought about withdrawing her complaints.
"I think if I had of known the sentences they would get, I may have considered it but at the time I felt like I had to go through with it," Mrs Boyer said.
"It meant that I stood up for myself and for me that was very therapeutic. It's important that victims can do that because it means that you're taking back control of your life."
Ms Boyer has three university qualifications, has written two mathematics activity books, volunteered in Cambodia and taught Arab women in Qatar.
But she said she wondered what she could have achieved if she hadn't been subjected to abuse.
In May this year, the victim-survivor shared her heartbreaking story of abuse at the women's March4Justice in Warrnambool.
"When a child is raped, it objectifies and shatters her," Ms Boyer told a large crowd at the Civic Green.
"No matter how hard I tried to put these pieces back together, I never became the person that I was meant to be."
Tens of thousands of people turned out to marches across Australia, protesting against the sexual abuse and harassment of women in the country.
They were spurred by a wave of allegations of sexual assault, centred around Australia's parliament.
Mrs Boyer said it was important to be united in times of trauma.
"Too often victims aren't heard and I really think that validation has to be given," she said.
Ms Boyer said standing up for herself had enabled her to "enjoy a creative and peaceful life, thanks to my family, friends and wonderful husband".
If you or anyone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT. In an emergency, call 000. Warrnambool domestic violence service Emma House - 1800 EMMADV.
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