Maccabi basketball coach jailed
A former Maccabi basketball coach has been jailed for a minimum of four and a half years having pleaded guilty to having sex with two underage girls and sexually abusing two others.
37-yr-old Shannon Francis appeared in Melbourne’s County Court today. When the incidents occurred in 1999-2000 Francis was between 22 and 24.
Manny Waks, CEO of sexual abuse advocacy group Tzedek has issued the following statement:
“We welcome today’s development in seeing justice for Mr Francis’ numerous victims. We would like to acknowledge the courageous victims for coming forward and ensuring that Mr Francis was held to account for his crimes. This was not an easy process for them but we are delighted that they persevered.
It is yet another important milestone for the Australian Jewish community. We have recently witnessed the conclusion of another major case involving former Melbourne Yeshivah College teacher, Rabbi David Kramer, who also received a jail term for his crimes against numerous children. Currently there are two additional cases before the courts, both involving ultra-Orthodox institutions in Melbourne. There are also ongoing police investigations regarding numerous other allegations, predominantly relating to cases involving the ultra-Orthodox Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne and the Yeshiva Centre in Sydney.
We are pleased that the suppression order has been lifted in today’s hearing as it highlights the fact that the scourge of child sexual abuse is not confined to one specific segment of the Jewish community – just as within the broader society, child sexual abuse is prevalent within the Jewish community. It is important that the endemic nature of child sexual abuse is acknowledged so that it may be addressed appropriately.
Today’s result is yet another reminder that perpetrators of such crimes will be held to account, irrespective of when the abuse occurred.
I have spoken with one of Mr Francis’ victims who feels “overwhelmingly relieved” with the outcome of today’s sentencing. She also said that she feels “vindicated” and that this entire process, despite its many challenges, has been “well worth it now that justice has been served”.`
The victim noted that “Shannon used his position over us to manipulate and deceive us, and he took complete advantage of our vulnerability. We were powerless against him – he was our coach, he earned our trust and then he used it against us.”
She concluded that “we have carried the effects of what Shannon did to us for 13 years, and we hope that today’s result can help us to achieve some closure after what has been a long and emotionally distressing court process”.
Both Tzedek and the victims encourage other girls who have experienced something similar to come forward. Tzedek stands ready to guide and support any Jewish victim or survivor of child sexual abuse.
In terms of the role Maccabi played since the abuse, based on the information from some of the victims, it seems that they still need to undertake a process of self-reflection and adjustment.
According to the victim I spoke to this morning, she stated the following:
“Throughout the court proceedings, Maccabi has continuously avoided the issue, denied responsibility and provided little support. Members of Maccabi management were aware that the case had been reopened in 2011, but no real attempt was made to offer any sort of support until we sent a letter to the Board a year later expressing our disappointment that they had failed to acknowledge the situation.
For a long time, Maccabi ignored that court proceedings were taking place, and neglected to consider the impact it was having on the victims, their families, and others involved. Their lack of sensitivity, compassion and empathy only served to compound our anxiety and distress.
What happened to us was not specific to basketball; it could happen in any sport. It is a broader Maccabi issue and something that needs to be addressed and pursued with urgency.”
I would like to note that Tzedek has been in contact with Maccabi over the past few months. We hope that moving forward Maccabi will address some of these issues and we hope to work with them to achieve better results in terms of both dealing with any other allegations that may arise and to minimise the chances for such incidents from occurring in the first place.
It is a great day for justice. We will continue in our mission in exposing these heinous crimes against the most vulnerable within our community. We will continue to say; enough, no more silence.”
Maccabi Australia Inc president Lisa Borowick said: “Maccabi and its Member Clubs have never and will never condone or seek to protect their own interests in any case of suspected criminality, especially one involving harm to children. It is our understanding that, at the time, the Club officials involved behaved in what they genuinely believed to be in the best interests of the victims and their families. It is our further understanding that the officials involved in 2000 acted in full consultation and agreement with the victims and their families.”