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When you've also been raped by the justice system

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Women say it is common to experience difficulties within our justice system when reporting sexual assault (Image by Jen Theodore | Unsplash)

After a Melbourne-based woman reported to police that she had been raped, she was notified that her case was being looked into — 89 days after her report, posts Cheek Media Co.

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape

WE RECENTLY received a message from a Melbourne-based woman who wanted to share her experience with reporting a rape.

The woman, who we’ll call Megan, told us that she was raped by a prominent Melbourne bar owner at his residence on 25 July 2020. She reported the incident to the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCITs) within the Victorian Police on 7 December 2020. She contacted us on Friday 5 March 2021, the same day she received confirmation that her case was being looked into — 89 days after she reported.

Megan was told the delay was due to officers being deployed to manage COVID-19 but told us she felt the timing of the call – which coincided with Brittany Higgins’ [disclosure] and historical rape allegations coming out of Canberra – was no coincidence.

Megan asked:

“I wonder how many women are getting these calls? There’s this whole movement I’m loving, but how on earth are we meant to report when the systems let us down just as much as the guys who did it in the first place?” 

Megan told us she was raped on 25 July 2020 by a prominent bar owner in Melbourne, in his home.

As Megan recounted:

“I knew him through friends and he invited us over and was making our drinks. It kind of happened twice… once with him and his friend, without penetration. Later when the rape occurred it was just him.”

 

“I hadn't spent one-on-one time with him before, but, since it happened, I’ve heard he does this a lot.”

Megan made an appointment with her doctor a few days following the incident, on Wednesday 29 July 2020, but only saw the pathology nurse face-to-face for the tests — not her general practitioner (GP).

Megan said:

My GP never referred a rape kit. We did a full sexually transmitted disease (STD) test, which is where [they] obtained urine and blood samples as well as a swab. But it was in the middle of lockdown, so my GP never invited me to come in even though I’d told her I’d been assaulted and had bite mark bruises on me. She gave me some resources for a counselling service I could call, but she didn’t let me know the avenues of reporting or where I could go.

A few months later, on 7 December 2020, Megan reported her rape to the SOCIT within the Victorian Police.

She explained:

“I provided names and contact numbers [to police] of the people who were there."

Megan gave police names and phone numbers for two other women who told her they had been raped by the same man but said, however:

“They haven’t contacted anyone whose names I provided.” 

Megan provided police with copies of the texts she sent on the evening, which included messages like, 'I’m scared.'; 'I don’t know where I am.' And ‘Come get me.'

Said Megan:

“I took photos of the injuries which I provided to police, but as I didn’t report for three months, they weren’t able to measure them — which I’m now told would’ve been useful.

Indicating the week of her reporting – beginning 7 December 2020 – Megan said:

“The police said they would arrest him and contact witnesses that week — but they didn’t.”

Two days after reporting – on 9 December 2020 – Megan’s friend, who was at the alleged rapist’s house when the incident occurred, went into the SOCIT to make a statement.

As Megan explained:

“At one point, her and I were in a bed with him and his friend and the whole thing was just off. “She [my friend] told the police what happened, but they never called again. I’m not sure why they didn’t do anything [with this information].” 

About follow-up by the police, Megan said:

“I got a letter later in December saying [the matter] was passed on to a new officer and I got another call from them [on 5 March]. I know they contacted my therapist to get their notes and the GP who prescribed my anti-depressants, following [my] reporting highly suicidal thoughts. But as far as I know, that’s all they did when I reported it.”

After hearing nothing, Megan followed up the next month.

She said:

“I followed up with another officer whose name I’d been given in January. He called me and asked if I knew any other girls [that the same thing had happened to]. He then said it would be referred to this other officer, who would be looking into it. I emailed the second officer and didn’t hear back at all. And I only just heard back from the third officer [on 5 March].”

Megan has provided us with a copy of the email she sent to the second officer, dated 15 February 2020. The email mentions her blood, urine and swab tests and requests the officer alert her as to whether they had been attained from the pathology lab. She also describes that the delay in the matter moving forward is impacting her mental health. Megan told us she did not receive a response to the email.

On 5 March (the same day Megan reached out to us) she was contacted by the third officer, who, she said, “basically explained the delay was due to COVID and that he now has my report and will look into it, but couldn’t give me a timeframe, and said he had a backlog to get through”.

Megan further explained:

“He [the third officer] also told me that the GP said the blood sample wasn’t taken. He said he’s spoken with them a few times and there is no record of a blood sample, which is definitely not true.”

Megan confirmed that she underwent a blood test at the same time as her swab and urine tests.

Megan said she questioned the third officer:

"I asked if he could give me a heads up when he was going to talk to people and he said that it was not really appropriate and that my part was kind of over in the investigation and that I’ve done what I can, which I thought was a little insensitive.”

Lastly, Megan declared:

"I just knew that as a woman I had to report it for other women. Even if nothing happened. It’s common knowledge in the Melbourne bar scene that he does this and no one does anything about it. He usually targets younger girls who are more scared. I am 28 now – 27 at the time – and I have enough backing me [that] I can take him on. I don't care if I get banned from a few bars. But a lot [of people] do."

'Megan' is a pseudonym used for the anonymity of the survivor.

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. Also, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

This article was originally published on 1 April 2021 on Cheek Media Co. under the title 'I was raped by a prominent Melbourne bar owner' and has been republished with permission.

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