Bashed toddler’s road to recovery
WARNING: Distressing content
IN OCTOBER 2016, when Evie McMahon was just eight months old, her mum, Lorien Norman, called the police and said she was about to throw her baby girl off the balcony.
When officers arrived, they found Evie had been severely bashed with a kitchen utensil and was covered in scratches.
Now, almost two years since the harrowing incident, her father Shane McMahon has spoken about his daughter's road to recovery.
It was on October 21, 2016, that Shane received the phone call no parent ever wants to get.
Detectives told the dad to get to the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide as soon as he could because his daughter was in the hospital with "life threatening injuries".
"They told me she was awake but had severe head injuries," he told news.com.au.
Shane and Lorien weren't in contact at the time Evie was bashed but he was immediately awarded sole custody after his daughter was released.
Evie spent two weeks in hospital to recover from her injuries and despite it being almost two years since the harrowing incident, Shane said she still often flinches when people go near her face.
"Don't get me wrong, she's doing really well and she's come right out of her shell because at first she was very timid and scared of everything," he said.
Shane said Evie's relationship with her three-year-old sister Indi has been particularly healing.
"They're always running around, they help each other in the bath and if one of them is upset they'll hug each other," he said.
A change.org petition calling for her retrial amassed 50,000 signatures in less than a week and a broader petition calling for harsher penalties for crimes against children received its goal of 200,000 in less than a week.
Lorien's sentence has not changed, however she did lose custody of Evie to Shane.
Now two, Evie is on the road to recovery with her loving dad and sister by her side.
"She still does flinch a little bit, but she's just such a beautiful girl now. It's hard to explain, but if kids do get too close to her face or anything, her hands immediately go straight up to her face and she cowers a bit.
"If she isn't in her comfort zone, she definitely flinches more," he said.
Next year, Evie will be old enough to undergo a psychological assessment where her family can fully understand the mental damage the assault might've had.
Despite Evie not physically remembering the assault, Shane said he will let his daughter know about what happened one day.
"When the girls are older, they're going to find out all of this stuff themselves and if I don't tell them it could push them away and I'll regret it," he said.
Shane said despite his strained relationship with Evie and Indi's mother, he'll still explain what happened to them in a way that could lead to them pursuing a relationship with her.
"I think about how I'm going to do it all the time but I'll obviously just be honest with them. I'll tell them what she did, 'Mum wasn't well', you know, obviously when they're of age," he said.
"Then they can decide if they still want to have a relationship with her, it's their choice, I can't tell them what to do. I won't say 'Your mother bashed you', I'll say that 'Mum wasn't well, she wasn't doing the right thing and she made a mistake and hurt you but she still loves you,'" he said.
Shane said his former partner's parents still have a relationship with their grandchildren - something he would never want to deny them.
"They still see Lorien's grandparents. I would never deny my children the right of knowing the other side of their family. It's obviously very upsetting what's happened with their mother but their grandfather is very caring and a nice man. I would never deny him the opportunity," Shane said.
Lorien was facing up to 13 years in prison for assaulting her baby with a spoon in her hand, but South Australian judge Jack Costello said her offence did not warrant a jail term.
"While any assault of a child, particularly one of such a tender age and vulnerability, by a parent stands as a gross breach of trust, your offending is nevertheless far from the most serious of offending of this type in terms of the degree of force involved and the duration of the offending," Judge Costello told the court in September, 2017.
Adding, "You have also had a significant history of drug (particularly cannabis) and alcohol abuse. Despite your troubled and somewhat dissolute past life there is guarded cause for optimism in that you have taken steps to turn your life around.
"You are clearly remorseful for your actions," he ended.
Due to Lorien's sentence, Shane is now pushing for tougher sentencing for domestic violence perpetrators.
"We drafted up a bill on the issue about child protection and domestic violence. We want a mandatory jail sentence for perpetrators," he said.
Despite the support of one South Australian politician, the bill failed.
"The sentences in our country are so pathetic and lenient. They benefit the perpetrator," he said.
"The laws are absolutely shocking. So we lost the battle but we're still going to fight the war," he said.
Shane's Facebook page, Evie's Journey - #justiceforevie, has more than 10,000 likes.
It follows his daughter's road to recovery and is the place Shane regularly tries to raise awareness for victims of child abuse and domestic violence.