Sex offender jailed, but heavy toll for victim

For more than a decade, Polla kept a monstrous secret. She was sexually abused by a trusted family friend.

It wasn't until she had children of her own - and her abuser, Athanasios Papazoglou, reappeared in her life - that she broke her silence.

"It was my secret. I chose not to tell anyone; not my parents, not a soul," said Polla, who did not want her last name published. "Then I suddenly have two daughters and he makes his way back into my parents' life.

"He has the nerve after so many years to basically say to my face... how much my kids reminded him of me when I was a kid," she said.

"What would a person do to protect their kids, and also to protect the community, knowing that this person was a paedophile?"

On Friday, Papazoglou was sentenced to nine years and six months' jail after he was found guilty following a retrial in the County Court. The charges relate to offences committed against Polla and another woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who was a girl at the time of the abuse.

The conviction gave Polla, who first made a statement to police 15 years ago, some closure, but not without a heavy emotional cost.

In 1998, when Polla decided to finally seek justice, she was 23 years old. Her two children had not started primary school.

Papazoglou had repeatedly abused her from the age of five, between 1982 and 1986.

As she stood on the steps of the County Court in Melbourne with her two daughters, she said she had been victimised through the lengthy legal proceedings.

Polla described the proceedings as invasive. She said she was forced to reveal her medical records in the initial trial, which she told the judge was "morally wrong", but she was prepared to do whatever it took ensure justice.

"I believe there should be a blanket approach to prohibiting access to health professionals' files as the defence should not be able to use this private confidential information against victims [and] survivors in court," she said.

"Having my private life exposed, judged and criticised has left me feeling more like the criminal instead of the victim.

"Why is it, that I, the victim, am officially the longest person ever to be sitting in the witness box in the County Court? Shouldn't that be the criminal?

"The justice system should be protecting the rights of victim/survivors instead of forcing them to fight their battle."

In sentencing, Judge Meryl Sexton said that she accepted that Polla felt the justice system had let her down, particularly after the release of her medical records.

Judge Sexton said she could not apologise for the law which allowed the release of the records, but acknowledged Polla now had a distrust of confiding in doctors and counsellors.

"I emphasise that not all the records were released," Judge Sexton said, adding that Polla was a "strong woman who had come through two trials”.

"There is nothing I can say to ease your pain."

Judge Sexton said Papazoglou, who was 34 to 38 years old at the time of offending, breached Polla and her family's trust and was "well aware" she was a "vulnerable little girl”.

Polla encouraged other sexual abuse victims to report their attackers: "It has taken me 15 years to be able to tell my story in order to end the silence for myself and hopefully encourage other victims and survivors of sexual assault to speak out."

This story Sex offender jailed, but heavy toll for victim first appeared on The Age.