Two male Queensland Police officers told a queer female victim of rape she “wasn’t the kind of woman who gets assaulted” and there was “nothing they could do,” when she went to them for help.
The woman is one of over 100 Queenslanders to share her story with an inquiry by the state’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, which is examining ways to improve the system.
Warning: distressing content
In her submission, the woman described the horrific “coordinated” sexual assault outside a major sporting event over a decade ago. She was in her early twenties.
The woman recalled two men holding her down and assaulting her before letting her go as they laughed at her laying on the ground.
Afterwards, she sought help from two male police officers, who looked her up and down.
“I located the nearest police, two male officers and told them I’d been assaulted,” she wrote.
She said she “was very upset” and “noticed immediately that they were looking me up and down.”
“I hadn’t been drinking so I thought it was strange until one of the officers stated that I ‘wasn’t the kind of woman who gets assaulted,'” she recalled.
“I’m queer, and although female, present more masculine. I have short hair and at the time was wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
“They wouldn’t listen to me. They wouldn’t let me lodge a report. In their words [there was] ‘nothing they could do’ all because I’m the wrong type of woman.
“They didn’t even ask if I was okay. They just wanted me to go home.”
‘I was also a victim of those Queensland Police officers’
The woman said it had been more than a decade since the night of the rape. She wrote that she still suffers from PTSD and after seeking mental health support she finally understood the impact the Queensland Police officers’ inaction had on her.
“I’ve since learnt that I did nothing wrong, and not only was I a victim of those two men who assaulted me, but those two policemen,” she wrote.
“Every time I hear in the news or social media of people asking, ‘Why didn’t you report it to the police’, my anger is palpable. I tried.”
She said it made her feel “that the police cannot protect me, nor will they be there for me after a crime.”
“No one should be denied the opportunity to file a sexual assault report based on their appearance,” she wrote.
“Any single person in the world can be sexually assaulted regardless of their gender identity, their sexuality or the clothes that they choose to wear or how they cut their hair.
“But to think, if I’d had long hair and worn a skirt those police officers might have taken me seriously that night.
“I recognise that we can’t stop all crime, we can’t stop all of these predators. But what happened afterwards with the Queensland Police should never have happened.”
The Queensland Police Service acknowledged “the importance of continuous improvement in our policing response, including looking at what more we can do to prevent and respond to sexual violence in our community”.
“The QPS is committed to ensuring policing services are accessible and that a professional and non-discriminatory policing response is provided to all members of the community,” a spokesperson said.
“A number of specialist officers, including LGBTIQ+ liaison officers are within all police districts to support a comprehensive policing response.”
Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce hears ‘intensely painful’ stories
The woman’s story is one of more than 120 submissions from Queenslanders with lived experience of sexual violence to the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.
The taskforce is currently undertaking an inquiry into women’s experiences across the criminal justice system.
Taskforce chair Margaret McMurdo said the “intensely painful and personal” stories from women paint a picture of a system “largely designed for and by men”.
“We have heard that at every turn, there are roadblocks to successful outcomes for sexual violence victims,” McMurdo said.
She said the taskforce was “deeply concerned” about the extent of sexual violence against women that goes unreported.
“Most don’t report what has happened and for the brave few who do, they often feel they are not taken seriously or treated as if they are the suspect and blamed and disbelieved.
“For far too many, the criminal justice process is slow, confusing and retraumatising.
“Many victims find it too much and give up.”
McMurdo said victims of violence “should not have to enter a raffle” to see if the police officer they encounter “will respond appropriately”.
“When a woman who is seeking help is turned away by the police, she won’t go back,” she said.
The taskforce will use the submissions to create a list recommendations on how to improve the system. The state government will receive the report by June 30.
Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
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