Francie's story

‘My husband has been sentenced to prison. We, his family, feel that the community has sentenced us for life.’

Francie, fully supportive of her husband, Levi, a convicted paedophile now serving time in protective custody, wants to correct any impression that the Jewish community to which they belonged ‘had turned its back against the victims and rallied around the perpetrator’.

She wants it abundantly clear that it ‘certainly did not rally around me, my husband and family’, the last having ‘gone through hell and back with all of this’.

When Levi was convicted of multiple offences in relation to rape and other child sex abuse charges, Francie and their children were immediately ostracised by people she thought were friends. Children’s parties and other celebrations were effectively stymied and the family was no longer invited to share meals.

‘We have been vilified and ostracised’, Francie said. As well, she was accused of ‘covering up’ his crimes, despite growing up overseas and not knowing about them until accusations first appeared in the media.

Francie, who worked for a Jewish institution, said that she was forced from the job she loved because of a slur campaign based on the past actions of her husband in relation to a Jewish community centre.

She suffered depression to the point of hospitalisation, financial problems and had to study for a new career direction. Her children also suffered depression and anxiety.

‘Now I sit alone with my kids and it’s very, very hard’, Francie said. What would have been ‘tough’ enough with Levi going to prison, was made worse for their children with ‘the extra stuff heaped on’.

Levi, Francie said, had wanted to read out an apology to his victims before beginning his long prison stretch, but was told by his lawyers that he could not.

‘My husband knows only too well the pain and scarring left by child sexual abuse. It would not surprise the Commission to learn that as a child he was abused on multiple occasions by grown men’, Francie said in a statement she sent to the Royal Commission.

As such, in prison, she said, ‘he is just beginning to tackle the long-repressed agony engendered by this ultimate betrayal of trust, and is riddled by nightmares, shadowy fears, depression and anxiety’.

Francie said Levi ‘feels at the moment very much like no one would believe me about the abuse I have suffered because of who I am’.

‘It has therefore been left to me to apologise to the victims on his behalf. Levi has asked me to tell you that he is deeply and sincerely apologetic for the pain and hurt his actions have caused, and hopes that you can one day find it in yourselves to forgive him.'

She told the Royal Commission: ‘The community has failed the victims, they have failed us. It’s a broken and a sick community … It’s not just the shunning of the victims but the community in general has been rocked by this and has behaved badly on every front possible where this is concerned.’

Francie said it was imperative that there be more openness about sex education because Levi believed his earliest offending, when he was about 16, was consensual because the younger boy did not say ‘No, go away’. Only with an adult’s understanding does it become known that there’s no consent at that age, she said.

Although Francie was not a member of her husband’s more fundamental community hub, it ‘certainly came as a massive, massive shock to me’ when it became clear after his charging and conviction that she was a pariah and their children were no longer considered part of the community.

‘Everyone who broke every other [religious] law … is absolutely welcome … and yet somehow we, by association, are not’, she said.

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