'Laidley’s alleged victim also needs support'
Footballers past and present are rallying around former North Melbourne footballer Dean Laidley but no one seems to be expressing sympathy for Laidley's alleged victim or victims.
Last Saturday night Laidley was charged with offences including stalking and, committing an indictable offence while on bail. These are serious criminal offences.
Photos of Laidley dressed in make-up and a blonde wig were widely circulated after his arrest on Saturday night.
Members of the football fraternity have expressed shock, sadness and sympathy for him. I am glad he's got their support. He's going to need it.
The fact that he was dressed as a woman is largely irrelevant to me - cross dressing these days is a legitimate lifestyle choice. But it may have come as a shock to some hardened football fans.
The more important issue is the seriousness of the charges Laidley is alleged to have perpetrated.
These are not victimless crimes. Stalking alone carries a penalty of a maximum of ten years in jail. It involves people following or harassing another person with the intention of deliberately harming them or causing fear of harm.
While Laidley deserves support, we must not forget the others allegedly involved.
I respect his mates rallying around. Former teammate David King has said he's been in touch. "I just think everyone lives their own way as long as they are acting within the confines of the legal process," he's said.
Cross dressing is not illegal, and shouldn't be. But stalking is illegal.
It's fitting that the police officer who leaked the photo has been suspended and is facing disciplinary action. His actions were wrong - not because Laidley was dressed as a woman - but because he had a right to privacy while in custody.
Laidley's lawyer Dee Giannopoulos said he needs mental health care and I hope he gets it.
I also hope North Melbourne keeps their word to help their former star. They must also offer the same support to his alleged victims.
Same goes for The AFL Players' Association and the AFL Coaches' Association, who are said to be trying to assist Laidley. He deserves to be supported, but so do they.
While the focus right now is on Laidley's mental health, we must not forget the alleged victims of this sorry saga.
Originally published as Laidley's alleged victim also needs support