How two brave girls put a paedophile behind bars

KATE WALSH
Last updated 18:34 05/07/2014
Mark Robert Forbes
Fairfax Aus
GUILTY: Mark Robert Forbes, a former assistant principal at Albion Park Public School.

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It was a message from one mother to another. A message no mother wants to deliver, that no mother ever wants to hear.

But it had to be delivered.

It was, thanks to the courage of two young girls and the determination of a wife to do the right thing despite the shocking truth it revealed about her husband.

When two young girls were sexually abused by a school teacher, they spoke up straight away, telling the perpetrator's wife the same night.

The girls' mother, who cannot be identified, contacted the Illawarra Mercury this week to share her pride in her daughters' courage and her gratitude towards the woman who put her own family at risk to help them get justice.

She said being believed from the outset had a positive effect on the girls' confidence as they went through the man's trial, adding she was indebted to his wife for believing them.

"It made a big impact on the children. I think even though it's such a horrific incident, in some ways it's actually been empowering for the children, which is really crazy actually.

"They told about it, he was given a consequence actually immediately because he was put in jail from the second day, the day after it happened, and they've also received all the family support and support from friends.

"The court process was traumatic and confronting, but they've gotten a sense of achievement from winning the case as well."

Mark Robert Forbes, a former assistant principal at Albion Park Public School, was found guilty of six child sex assault charges on Wednesday and will be sentenced on August 21.

Charges were laid against the 53-year-old after the girls alleged he touched them inappropriately during an overnight stay at his house on March 27, 2013, while their parents were at a concert.

The jury also heard he performed sexual acts on the younger girl.

The girls alerted Forbes's wife to the indecent acts, who drove them home and informed their parents of the allegations.

The mother said the early reporting of the incident and the child protection education the girls had received had been crucial during the court process.

She wants other parents to know how important it is to educate children about sexual abuse and why it is important to report it as soon as possible.

"They need to know that telling is a good thing and needs to override feelings of guilt or shame or upsetting people," the mother said.

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"The early reporting is key and the education of children is key to getting a good outcome.

"Don't be afraid to speak up about sexual abuse as early as possible, the earlier the better."

She said teaching children what constituted sexual abuse, that they shouldn't keep it a secret even if a predator tells them to, and the correct names for genitals and breasts, was just some of the information children needed.

Without this education, her daughters would never have spoken up.

While she had spoken to them about abuse, their mother credited her older daughter's ability and courage to speak out to what she had learnt in school.

Her teacher had explained sexual abuse and why reporting it straight away was important.

"My daughter actually told me she wouldn't have told his wife if it hadn't been for the school education," she said.

Telling people about the assault almost immediately meant police could act quickly, interviewing the girls, collecting DNA samples and arresting Forbes the next day.

This allowed the prosecutors to put together a strong case against the former school teacher.

"It made the job of the jury much easier when you've got DNA evidence [and] very clear accounts given by the children," their mother said.

"I was talking to a policeman during the case and he was saying with quite a lot of these sexual abuse cases they get notification many days after, or weeks or even months, and then there is no evidence, the stories are vaguer and it's very difficult to create a court case."

She said her girls thought jailing Forbes was a tough punishment, but believed their attitudes would change with time.

"My children seem to think him being in jail is too harsh a punishment. I completely disagree. My daughter seems to think they should send him to the moon instead.

"But I think as they grow older they will see that was the best punishment for him."

The girls are doing well since the trial's conclusion and their mother said they had been uplifted by the support they had received.

As they wait for Forbes to be sentenced, she said the family would move on with their lives with the knowledge their pursuit of justice had been successful.

"I do feel like I can go forward now because the court case has finished, he's been found guilty, we can close the doors on it now. Obviously I'll have to open the doors up again from time to time as there are effects on the children, and I hope they aren't too bad, but that's all uncertain.

"But I do feel like we can go forward, we can move on to new things now, we can heal and face a brighter future. We don't have to be burdened by this because we've dealt with it, we've confronted it, we've put our best efforts into getting justice."

She said the guilty verdict would hopefully give other victims of sexual abuse courage to come forward.

"It does make us feel it hasn't just benefitted us but it's also benefitted other people as well. I actually think it's also the best thing for the perpetrator, I think he needs some time for self reflection and self awareness.

"It is a good feeling to expose someone who has done a criminal thing and for them to face a consequence.

"I think they [the girls] feel the same way. They do realise that they may have protected other children through this process and it would be good if it does inspire people to do the right thing."

If you or someone you know is at risk of sexual abuse:

Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If you prefer to speak to an advisor other than a trusted parent or friend, call one of the below services:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling

Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling.

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to midnight)

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm - 6pm weekdays)

If it is an emergency or you feel you or someone you know is at immediate risk, please call 111.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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