Star’s powerful message to abuse survivors

 

Sarah Monahan blew the whistle on her childhood abuser and on-screen father Robert Linday Hughes at a time when speaking up was still taboo.

She has told news.com.au it "was met with suspicion" when she spoke out about being repeatedly molested while a child star on the Aussie hit comedy Hey Dad..!

"People asked what I was looking for - was it money, an extra 15 minutes of fame? It took four years to get to court and have Robert Hughes found guilty."

Hughes, who played Martin Kelly in the iconic TV series, was handed a maximum prison term of 10 years and nine months.

This is Monahan's open letter sent to news.com.au:

Sarah Monahan (bottom centre) with Robert Hughes and the Hey Dad..! cast.
Sarah Monahan (bottom centre) with Robert Hughes and the Hey Dad..! cast.

"I know most people are looking at the news coming out of parliament right now, and are horrified. I'm actually thrilled with the current events.

"I'm not happy at the content of the reports of the sexual abuse and misogyny, but I am so happy that for once we're actually hearing about them, and that women are speaking up, telling their stories, and that they're actually being aired and listened to.

People are listening, and joining in with their stories, and marching in the streets, demanding action.

"It's an exciting time.

"For those on the ground, telling their stories, it will be an absolutely terrifying time. They'll be scared of speaking up. Scared of the backlash. Scared of what people will say and think. Scared they'll lose their jobs, or place in society.

"But women today have something I didn't when I spoke up. They've got each other, and a movement, and they might not be able to see it while they're down in the trenches, but I feel like we're on the cusp on a great change.

"If everyone stands together and keeps marching forward, the way they have been, we could see an entire societal shift, like we did with the women's right to vote, or the feminist bra burnings of the 70s.

 

Sarah Monahan’s book Allegedly.
Sarah Monahan’s book Allegedly.

 

Robert Hughes outside court.
Robert Hughes outside court.

TAKE THE POLL: Women come forward like never before with stories of sexual assault

"When I spoke up about my dealings on the set of Hey Dad..! back in March of 2010, 11 years ago now, there wasn't a movement yet. There were other victims, but we weren't allowed to talk to each other. We couldn't console each other and provide support.

"Being the only public face, I was left to deal with all the scrutiny. Back then, speaking up was still taboo. It was met with suspicion. People asked what I was looking for - was it money, an extra 15 minutes of fame? It took four years to get to court and have Robert Hughes found guilty.

"During that time, the Royal Commission into Child Abuse was started. I was initially invited to give testimony there, but they didn't want it to affect the case. Thankfully, other victims of the entertainment industry came forward, and gave their stories to be heard.

"Then the Weinstein movement happened. There was still some initial pushback, because actresses could only be accusing someone because they needed something right? But then more and more people started talking. They started to support each other. They created #MeToo, and then thousands of people started adding their stories. Now people refer to being "Weinsteined" in movies.

 

Australian of the Year Grace Tame speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Australian of the Year Grace Tame speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

 

Robert Hughes and Sarah Monahan.
Robert Hughes and Sarah Monahan.

"Australia had some setbacks. There were a few cases of people speaking up, and being sued, which made people scared to speak up. It hushed the room again. Why speak up if it opens you up to having your life ruined financially as well as emotionally?

"But then Grace Tame came along. I was horrified to hear of her case, and the archaic laws that existed that didn't allow a victim to speak up. I wished I had been in Australia to do more for the #LetHerSpeak campaign, but I was absolutely thrilled when the law was overturned.

"I was even happier when I saw her win Australian of the Year.

"After 11 years, we had gone from someone speaking out and receiving a barrage of death threats, to someone speaking up and being made Australian of the Year. Eleven years may seem like a long time, but to me, it's amazing at how far we've come in that time.

I'm deeply proud of Australians for the change they've made in how they react when someone speaks up about abuse.

"Watching the #MarchForJustice on TV from afar made me homesick, wishing I could be there to walk alongside you. To show my support. To offer hugs where needed. But I could see the support for each other, see how people really listened to those speaking, and I shed a tear. Partly of self pity, wishing I'd had that kind of support back in the day, but also of joy, at seeing how much has changed. It's bittersweet watching the changes.

 

Pictured is Sarah Monahan at Home. Picture: Christian Gilles
Pictured is Sarah Monahan at Home. Picture: Christian Gilles

"So for all the women who are currently standing up in parliament, I want to applaud you. I want to encourage you to keep fighting. You're the ones who can make changes from the very top. Use your parliamentary privilege to out people. Use your positions to change laws to make it easier for victims to seek justice. Make Australia a better place for Australians, and show the rest of the world that women and children are equals, and deserve to live their lives without fear of abuse or sexual assault.

"It's probably going to get worse before it gets better. There's going to be a lot more that comes out. Some of it will be deeply disturbing. People in power will place gag orders, they'll try to hush people. They'll try to discredit people, and use smear campaigns as we've already seen. But as long as you all keep holding each others hands, keep watching each others backs, and most importantly, keep hearing each other, and refusing to accept any of the bullshit anymore, it's going to get better.

"I promise, the pain you're going through now is worth it. When you look back in a few years time, you'll know you made some sacrifices, but you made a huge difference, and it'll all be worth it."

 

Originally published as Star's powerful message to abuse survivors

Former Hey Dad child actor Sarah Monahan.
Former Hey Dad child actor Sarah Monahan.

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