Excerpt: System Failure – The Silence of Rape Survivors
As a Managing Partner of Marque Lawyers, a commercial firm with a strong interest in human rights, Michael Bradley has been directly involved in working for victims of sexual violence and rape and in advocating for reform in this area of law.
Content Warning: This article deals with sexual assault. If you or someone you know is affected by the following story, you are not alone. To speak to someone, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
In his new book, published this month via Monash University Publishing, Michael Bradley explores the legal system’s responses to rape and why they are designed without thinking of survivors. As Bradley notes, “They in no way answer the questions survivors ask or the needs they express. Simply put, on the systemic response to rape, we are having the wrong conversation. “
To salute the work of Michael Bradley and highlight the limited choices available to rape survivors, we published an excerpt from System failure: the silence of rape survivors below. This particular clip concerns a musician who was raped by another musician in Melbourne.
Dina is a musician based in another country. In 2019, as part of a multi-country tour, she was in Melbourne, sharing an Airbnb house rental with the tour promoter and Terry, a fellow musician from overseas. One afternoon, when they were alone at home, Terry went to see Dina. It started with a request for a hug, then a bed, and, through a succession of extremely confusing events (according to Dina’s police statement), it ended in multiple acts of rape. She went to the hospital the same day, where she underwent a forensic examination, and gave a detailed statement to the police two days later.
As becomes evident after reading enough survivor stories, and contrary to popular understanding, the dynamics of rape are rarely straightforward and often an absolute mess. This shouldn’t surprise or confuse us, but it does. Dina had submitted to a lot of what Terry wanted, for complex and, on her reflection, mystifying reasons. Dina is small; Terry is a huge man. She was physically afraid of him, sexually inexperienced and bewildered by his forceful and uncompromising insistence. She loved him too, but not attracted to him. When he started to move on her she tried to control the situation by giving in a bit while maintaining a limit, but she kept sliding. Her rapid descent into a frozen state of fear left her almost helpless.
Nevertheless, Dina told Terry several times that her vagina was “not for you”, that “I don’t know what you are doing but I am not comfortable with it”, and “to stop “. She used tactics like hiding in the bathroom, pretending to use the toilet for an extended period of time and pretending she needed to work. In the end, she submitted to the final sex act, her fear of being repeatedly raped flooding all other possibilities.
Never miss industry news
Get the latest music industry news, information and updates straight to your inbox. Learn more
Reading Dina’s statement one is struck by her honesty (the idea that anyone would want to concoct such a messy story is just plain bizarre) and by the enormity of the emotional storm she experienced while being simultaneously physically and sexually monstrous by Terry. At one point in her statement, she recalled that, “My brain was absolutely not working, I was screaming in my head, ‘What the fuck is going on?
Terry, no doubt, would have remembered the incident differently, but he was never asked. Victoria Police, following Dina’s report, opened an investigation in November 2019. Not much happened – Dina heard very little about the officers involved and became increasingly frustrated by the apparent lack of progress in his case. Then, in January 2021, after fourteen months of virtual silence, Dina received a phone call and a brief and overly free letter from the police:
Your report has been thoroughly investigated.
According to our telephone conversation, a decision was made not to proceed with charges.
The reason is that there is not enough evidence to proceed with the trial.
I set up a conference call with Dina, the detective investigator and this officer’s superior, to find out what was behind this non-informative communication. The senior officer explained that he had decided the case was not strong enough to be dealt with, giving us the benefit of his summary of the difficulties faced by police investigating sex crimes: “The investigation into sexual assault is notoriously difficult. In many cases, it is a situation of only two people, no witnesses, where you have the story of the complainant and the story of the accused. This is a “he said / she said” situation.
All of this is undoubtedly true. Surely it is time for the police to resist the use of the deeply offensive ‘he said / she said’ disposable line under the mistaken assumption that it would somehow comfort the survivors that the police are doing. rejecting the experience of rape. However, the central point is indisputable: under our criminal law, it is extremely difficult to initiate a rape case. And Dina’s case was far from the easiest prospect.
Yet Dina had been violently raped.
If you or someone you know is affected by the following story, you are not alone. To speak to someone, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
About the Author:
Michael Bradley is a lawyer and writer. As a Managing Partner of Marque Lawyers, a commercial firm with a strong interest in human rights, Michael was directly involved in working for victims of sexual violence and in advocating for reform in this area of the law. . In his work with dozens of survivors as well as with leading experts in the field, he has observed consistent patterns in the response of the justice system to these survivors and their experiences within that system – patterns that are both deeply troubling and clear indications of why the system continues to fail.
Michael is the chair of the Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy Initiative (RASARA), which leads policy reform in this area. He is also a widely published essayist on legal and social justice issues, with a regular column in Crykey and before Battery, as well as other media, including Saturday newspaper and Australian Financial Review. His book Coniston, on the last aboriginal massacre, was published by UWA Publishing in 2019.