MORE than 12 months on from an attempt to blackmail her, councillor Jacqui Rudge is speaking out about the impact of the personal attack and the fears she holds for future councillors.
In March 2020, the first-term councillor received a letter in the mail threatening to expose her mental health battle, which included a stay in Panorama Clinic, if she didn't resign from Bathurst Regional Council.
Although shaken, Cr Rudge took back the power and spoke out about her history of mental health issues.
It was a display of strength, particularly when the situation could have so easily gone the other way.
"It hasn't been easy," Cr Rudge said.
"And I think the thing for me is, if other people receive threats like this that don't go public and they take another option, how very bad is that?
"I reached out, and not everyone would do that."
While still not at peace with what has happened, she has now turned her attention to the devastating effect this could have on any other newcomers to council.
Cr Rudge said she wants to see "good people" stand for local government, but is concerned that situations like what she experienced could deter people.
"I want to highlight my experience once again, because mental health is such a major issue, not only in our local community, but worldwide, and the idea of using someone's mental health against them, or indeed the fact that that person went out and sought help when they needed it, was extremely dangerous," Cr Rudge said.
"I'm concerned with the way females in particular, but not alone, are treated in political life. This has received a lot of attention lately and can easily leave a lot of women cold when it comes to deciding whether or not to run for the September 2021 elections.
"And I firmly believe, until this extortion case is resolved, they have good reason to back away or hesitate.
"All communities must have confidence in our local democratic process and confidence that our elected officials, male or female, won't be harassed, threatened or blackmailed out of office by the means of extortion and anonymous letters like I've had to endure."
The Western Advocate contacted Chifley Police District for comment on the investigation into the letter and was told it was still ongoing.
"In March 2020, officers from Chifley Police District commenced an investigation after reports a woman, then aged 61, had received a threatening letter," the statement read.
"As the investigation is ongoing, no further information is available."
In the meantime, Cr Rudge has been keeping active in the community and using her experience with mental health to help others.
She has strengthened her ties with the Panorama Clinic and is now a community representative for the Bathurst and Dubbo Sub-acute Partnership Committee, something that likely would not have happened if she hadn't spoken publicly last year about her experiences and the need to get help.
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