Tag Archives: sexual assault

How embarrassing for professional journalists

Oh COME ON, journalists. How can you still be getting this wrong?

This time it’s someone at AAP for writing it, and someone at smh.com.au for running it: Teenage girl sexually assaulted in Sydney toilet block:

A teenage girl has been forced off a Sydney train and then sexually assaulted in a toilet block at the station, police say.

Despite what journalists write, assaults do not just loiter in dark places, waiting to happen at someone like some sort of Vashta Nerada. Assault is a crime committed by a person, so why is it reported differently? It’s the only crime they report this way.

Unless the story was written by a journo who knows what they’re doing, you can bet that the man who committed the crime isn’t mentioned in the first sentence. When I was a journo, it was drummed into us that most people only read the first sentence of a story – two sentences if it’s interesting – so you have to get the important stuff in there quick smart. Quite often, the man who committed the crime isn’t mentioned until the third or fourth sentence. I wonder, is it deliberate, or just incompetence?

I know, I know, it seems like such a minor point. But it’s not. It frames the way people think about male violence against women, and the result is that when we talk about it, we use sentences like “a woman was assaulted on the train”, “a young girl was assaulted in a park”, “a woman was assaulted while walking home”, “a woman was assaulted at a party”. The focus is on where the victim was and what she was doing, rather than on the person who committed the crime. When you talk about violence only in relation to women, then it’s seen as a problem for women to solve. Which is bullshit.

This is the story:

A teenage girl has been forced off a Sydney train and then sexually assaulted in a toilet block at the station, police say.

The 17-year-old girl was on a train when a man allegedly approached her and began talking to her around 12.30pm (AEDT) on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old man then forced her off the train and into a toilet block at Strathfield station in Sydney’s inner west, where he sexually assaulted her, police allege.

He then fled the scene and emergency services were called.

A short time later, police said they found the man and arrested him.

He was charged with sexual assault and will appear at Burwood Local Court on Thursday.

Oh, so the story is actually that a man has been arrested for assaulting someone. Here AAP and SMH, let me write it for you, using your language:

Man arrested for assaulting teen

A man has been charged with sexual assault after attacking a teenage girl.

The 34-year-old man allegedly approached the 17-year-old girl on a train and began talking to her around 12.30pm (AEDT) on Wednesday.

He then forced her off the train and into a toilet block at Strathfield station in Sydney’s inner west, where he sexually assaulted her, police allege.

He then fled the scene and emergency services were called.

A short time later, police said they found the man and arrested him.

He will appear at Burwood Local Court on Thursday.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Update 24 Jan: This morning, The Daily Telegraph has two stories about the alleged rape (also run on News.com.au). In one, reporter Jim O’Rourke caught the train and asked women if they were going to be more careful from now on – proving that he has absolutely no idea about the issue he is reporting on. If all it took was women to “be careful”, then there wouldn’t be any rape or sexual assault. In the second story, O’Rourke includes two gratuitous photos of the toilet. That’s gross and unnecessary.

Today in ‘What Mia Freedman has done now’


Mia Freedman’s at it again, blaming women for stuff and calling it feminism: This isn’t victim blaming. This is common sense:

Let’s say you have a daughter. Or a little sister. And let’s say there was something you could tell her that would dramatically reduce the likelihood of her being sexually assaulted during her lifetime.

Would you tell her?…

I’ll tell her that getting drunk when she goes out puts her at a greater risk of danger.

Look, I get it, I really do. Telling women that there are things they can do to prevent sexual assault seems like common sense, but it’s really not. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned advice, but it simply doesn’t stand up to logic: if women could prevent sexual assault, then we’d all prevent it and there’d be no sexual assault. It’s a no-brainer.

Telling women that if they don’t get drunk they’ll “dramatically reduce the likelihood” of being sexually assaulted is also telling them a massive lie: Women are at more risk in their own homes, from men they know, than they are from someone they meet while drunk.

We’ve been telling women for an awfully long time not to get themselves raped and yet, men are still raping them. Could it be – gasp! – that this ‘women take responsibility for your actions/don’t make yourself vulnerable’ message is utter bollocks?

Freedman’s article perpetuates pretty much all of the rape myths – that rapists are creepy dudes in dark alleys, that she was asking for it by drinking too much, that guys can’t control their urges and roam the streets looking for victims, that nice sober girls don’t get raped, that it’s not rape unless she tries to run away – and she would know this by now. I mean, it’s not like it hasn’t been pointed out to her before. By hundreds of people.

Let me be clear: sexual assault is never the fault of the victim… But teaching girls how to reduce their risk of sexual assault is not the same thing as victim blaming. It’s not. And we must stop confusing the two.

Now Mia, I know you’ve learned the term “victim blaming” but you haven’t learned what it means. It’s like the time I thought “reactionary” meant someone who reacted to things. Boy, was I embarrassed when I discovered it meant someone who opposes political/social progress. If we teach girls that they can reduce their risk of sexual assault by not getting drunk, and then they go out and get drunk and someone assaults them, then what? It means that if she didn’t get drunk then it wouldn’t have happened, right? That means she’s kinda responsible for what happened, right? Hello, victim blaming! You can’t possibly say in one breath that “sexual assault is never the fault of the victim” and then in the next breath suggest that something she did caused the assault. That seems pretty bloody obvious to me. Some might say it was common sense.

Will I also teach my sons about this connection between alcohol and sexual assault? Sure. I will teach them that binge drinking will obliterate their ability to make good decisions – about getting into cars, getting into fights and having sex.

Hopefully you will also talk to your sons about not being rapists, since 93 per cent of offenders are male. As Carina Kolodny writes, you need to have the “don’t rape” conversation with your sons “because so many parents have thought they didn’t need to and so many people have suffered because of it”.

Somehow, in some quarters, the right to get wasted has become a feminist issue and this troubles me greatly.

I haven’t seen any feminist argue that the “right to get wasted” is a feminist issue. Fighting myths that give rapists excuses, now that’s a feminist issue.

Freedman then mentions the study that was in Emily Yoffe’s piece that “almost 20 per cent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. More than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol”.

So, what you’re saying is that a large number of college guys are sexually assaulting their female classmates. And they think it’s ok to rape someone if she’s drunk. That shit is scary, but no no Mia, you should continue to use your privileged position in our society to suggest that it’s women who are the problem here.

This is not an issue of morality. If you want to have casual sex, go for it. Safely. Just make sure it’s your decision and one you’re still comfortable with the next day.

You know, I’m gonna give Freedman the benefit of the doubt here and believe that she’s not suggesting that rape is the same as sex you might regret.

Here’s what you are responsible for when you get drunk: your hangover; losing your phone; falling over and smashing your knee; spending too much money on booze. Here’s what you are not responsible for when you get drunk: someone else commiting a crime. To suggest you are responsible for that is just ridiculous. So I’m gonna repeat the point I made earlier: if women WERE actually able to prevent sexual assault, there’d be no sexual assault. Ever. There’s your fucking common sense, Mia.

Warped reporting at Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph


Trigger warning – this post discusses sexual violence.


It’s tough being a woman. We just walk down the street and then, out of nowhere, an assault happens to us. We need to be particularly careful of these disembodied assaults that just hang around until they can happen at someone. At least, that’s the impression I get when journalists report on violence against women: men don’t assault women, it’s just that women have assaults happen to them.

Today’s story is awful. On Sunday morning, a group of men kidnapped a woman and raped her. I can’t imagine how terrified she must have been and how much it must have hurt. I can’t imagine how any victim of a crime like this copes in the weeks, months, and years afterwards. I really hope that this post does not add to her trauma because that is not my intention at all. My intention is to make journalists think about why they report violence against women in a way that almost removes the perpetrator from the crime.

AAP was the first to report the story. On dailytelegraph.com.au they headlined it Sydney woman abducted and gang-raped by group of men, police say. On smh.com.au they headlined it Sydney teen abducted and sexually assaulted by gang. They are both passive sentences – generally frowned upon in journalism. But it becomes more sinister when you consider that passive sentences are usually used to deflect blame, to be vague about who is responsible, or because the person responsible is unimportant.

Four hours after they published the AAP copy, smh.com.au had an updated version (with two bylines and an additional nine words): ‘I don’t think it gets more serious’: woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say.

Call me crazy but I think the men did something more serious than ask for directions.

The journalist (Rachel Olding) even includes this sentence at the end:

The victim, who was not affected by alcohol at the time, has been receiving intense counselling and is being supported by her family, Detective Superintendant Kerletec said.

Now, I don’t know if Olding asked the alcohol question, or if another journalist asked it and she reported the answer, or if Kerletec anticipated the question, or if Kerletec believes it’s important, but how is it relevant to a story about other people committing a violent crime? What do journalists think it actually means if she had been drinking? That the crime those men committed is less of a crime? That it’s somehow her fault? That it’s ok for a group of men to assault someone who has been drinking? What? They obviously think it means something important, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked. I’d really like a journalist to let me know why they asked the alcohol question – why they always ask the alcohol question – because I’ve been a journalist and it never occurred to me to ask it.

Here’s the story on smh.com.au:

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

Standfirst reads: Teen allegedly gang raped after being forced into car by group who asked her for directions.

The men who committed the crime aren’t even mentioned.

Compare that to another crime story below it:

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

Standfirst reads: Four men attempted a brazen armed robbery near a Sydney shopping centre, witnesses say.

If the robbery story was reported the same way as the assault story, the standfirst would read: “AN Armaguard van was attacked early this morning while parked on a street in Glebe.” It might even include this sentence: “The van, which was not affected by alcohol at the time, had previously been at a bank where it collected a large amount of money.”

But wait, there’s more.

In one story, ‘I don’t think it gets more serious’: woman gang-raped after men ask for directions, police say, the criminals are barely mentioned in the first two sentences:

Police say an alleged gang-rape attack on a teenager in Sydney’s north-west is “as worse as it gets”.

The 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a car load of five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills on Sunday morning, police said.

In the other, Shot fired at Broadway: gang attempts to rob van, the criminals are the main part of the first two sentences:

Four men have attempted a brazen armed robbery of a cash-in-transit van outside a Sydney inner-city shopping centre, witnesses say.

A witness to the incident said three of the men approached the Armaguard truck armed with firearms outside Broadway Shopping Centre at 8:30am on Monday.

Two crime stories, both involving gangs of men, but reported very differently. Why is that?

Here’s the story on dailytelegraph.com.au:

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney's northwest.

Standfirst reads: A YOUNG woman has been abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang of men after leaving a house party in Sydney’s northwest.

The bit mentioning the gang of men is tucked into the middle of the sentence so you don’t really notice it.

Now, compare it to the story below it on the homepage:

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

Standfirst reads: TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities in Australia and the UK amid allegations they abused two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.

The focus of sentence is the alleged criminals, not the victims. Again, the opposite of the way journalists report violence against women.

We get this constant stream of “a woman was abducted on the way home, a woman was sexually assaulted while drunk, a woman was assaulted in her home, a woman had something bad happen to her because she was somewhere late at night” because journalists pretend that assault just hangs out on the street waiting for a woman to walk past so it can happen at her. Assault is not something that’s just part of being a woman, like periods or a squirty bot bot after eating three-day-old takeaway that was a bit iffy. Assault is a crime committed by another person. Yet it’s reported as though that other person doesn’t exist. There are two options here: one, journalists don’t bother to think about the words they use; or two, they want us to believe that men aren’t to blame for the majority of assaults against women. So, journalists are either stupid, or they’re arseholes. I don’t know which is worse.

The smh.com.au story now has video. The caption reads: NSW police are warning women to be cautious on the street after an 18-year-old woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by five men after leaving a house party in Baulkham Hills.

No mention yet about NSW Police warning men not to rape women.

If you’re drunk and get raped, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself, says NSW Police Commissioner

Oh look, the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, is a rape apologist: Girls’ drink pact:

YOUNG women planning a night out should tell their friends if they plan to have sex to avoid unwanted and potentially dangerous drunken encounters, the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, has warned.

What’s a rape apologist? Well, I’m glad you asked. Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog has a wonderfully clear definition, that even people like Andrew Scipione should be able to understand:

The simple answer is that a rape apology is any argument that boils down to the myth that rapists can be provoked into raping by what the victim does or does not do.

Most people who make such arguments are not consciously intending to defend rapists. They are simply repeating arguments they have heard before and haven’t fully examined.

Clearly Scipione was sleeping through the several months of mainstream media coverage about SlutWalk. But it does go some way towards explaining why we still have police officers who believe rape myths.

While the non-drinking Police Commissioner is retreating from his earlier calls to raise the legal drinking age from 18, now he is calling on young women to “look out for your mates”.

Yes, telling people – not just young women – to look out for your mates is a good thing, but most people already do that. It’s a bit frightening to think that NSW Police’s anti-rape strategy is “hey women, don’t get drunk and you won’t get raped, but if you do get drunk and raped then you should take responsibility for your actions”. Not only is that offensive victim-blaming, but it’s telling women that they will be safe from sexual assault if they don’t get drunk, and that is simply bullshit. Scipione would know that.

Mr Scipione pointed The Sun-Herald to a soon-to-be-published study of 235 female university students, aged 18 to 25.

One-quarter drank twice a week and the same number drank heavily in a single session at least four times a month, the University of Wollongong study found.

Those who drank heavily were more likely to find themselves in dangerous sexual situations. And yet almost half said they never, rarely or only sometimes used a condom during sex.

I don’t know if Scipione doesn’t get it, or if the journalists – Nick Ralston, Saffron Howden – don’t get it, but unsafe consensual sex is not the same thing as sexual assault.

About 3000 people aged 15 to 24 are admitted to Australian hospitals each year for acute intoxication. Between the late 1990s and 2005-06, the rate of young women being admitted to hospital doubled.

That statistic is meaningless if you don’t give a figure. For all we know, there could have been only five women admitted to hospital for acute intoxication during the 90s, so for that to double in a decade is hardly cause for wringing of hands over young women not behaving like ladies anymore.

“In the past we always saw this overuse, the abuse, the drunken behaviour, the violent behaviour, the stupid behaviour … that was predominantly the domain of young men,” Mr Scipione said. “It’s not that way any more.

“It’s now unfortunately something that’s seen as cool: to be drunk as a young woman. For the life of me, I don’t know what’s that attractive about some young woman vomiting in the gutter at 3am after a big night.”

What’s attractive? Judgey Scipione, who gives a shit about what you find attractive? A woman’s purpose is not to be attractive at all times, just in case a man happens to look at her. If all you have to offer the public discussion around binge drinking is that you think it makes young women look unattractive, then we need a new Police Commissioner. One who thinks with his brain, not his penis.

Mr Scipione, the father of two sons and a daughter, said he wanted young women to take responsibility for their safety when drinking before they became victims of crime.

When you tell women that they are personally responsible for whether or not someone else commits a violent crime, you’re letting the criminal off the hook. You’re giving them an excuse for what they did. I wonder if he tells his son not to rape women?

Here’s the thing, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione. I’ll stop blogging and tweeting about you being a rape apologist if your rape prevention strategy starts to prominently involve the following:

“Hey guys, when you go out tonight, DON’T RAPE ANYONE”.

When skirts break the law

I was talking about SlutWalk last night and the conversation kept coming back to personal responsibility. That you need to take personal responsibility for your own safety and unfortunately that means not wearing something too provocative.

I can see why this idea is so widespread, because on the surface it makes sense. But I call bullshit. Because when you say that, what you’re really saying is the other person is not responsible for their actions. And if you dig deeper into that, what does it mean? That women should have personal responsibility but men shouldn’t? That men are so controlled by sexual urges that they simply must stick their penis inside every nearby vagina? We all know that’s rubbish. Even douchebags know that it’s wrong to jump on someone in the street and have sex with them. And we know that even douchebags know this because we don’t see it happening. So how on earth is it my fault – or my skirt’s fault – if someone else decides to break the law?

Our culture pushes the idea that women can somehow prevent rape – by not wearing certain items of clothing, by not getting drunk, by not walking around alone at night, by doing self-defence classes – and all of this ignores the fact that it’s not strangers women should fear. I’m not sure why our culture keeps pushing this lie. Maybe it’s because women are so used to being the ones who have to change – we have to be more masculine at work if we want a pay rise, we have to be different in some way if we want to get a boyfriend, we have to give up our bodies to grow humans, we have to accept that six or twelve months off work will damage our careers forever – that rather than teaching people not to attack or rape others, it’s just easier to make it yet another thing that women should do. I hope this is the reason, because the alternative is just too heartbreaking: that when women are attacked it’s their own fault and so the attacker shouldn’t be punished. Can you imagine if we told men that it’s their own fault for being in public if someone king hits them in the street?

Which brings me back to SlutWalk. I don’t think it will stop fuckwits groping women, or raping them, or believing it’s their right to say something nasty to a woman about her body. You can’t rid the world of fuckwits. But you can get people talking about the shit that women have to put up with when they’re in public. And maybe a journalist will think more carefully about the words they use when writing about violence against women. And maybe when a douchebag makes a nasty comment on a news website, other readers will pull them up. Or the moderator will realise that it shouldn’t be published because it’s offensive. And maybe when some idiot says a woman was “asking for it”, everyone else will point out how ridiculously stupid that is.

If someone else breaks the law, what on earth does it have to do with what I’m wearing?

Responsibility vs victim blaming

There’s a big difference between taking responsiblity for the massive bruise on your arse because you got too drunk and stacked it, or the friendship that needs repairing because you said something offensive while plastered, and saying it’s your own fault that some arsehole raped you. Seriously, how hard is this to understand?

Jennifer Wilson has a piece in today’s Online Opinion: Grown up girls take responsibility.

My first problem is the headline which, admittedly, Wilson probably didn’t write. Grown up girls? Grown up girls are women. We don’t need to be infantilised. Sure, sometimes I refer to my boobs as girls (“my girls need some good strong scaffolding”), and sometimes I refer to my vagina as a falcon (“my falcon needs a good strong perch”), but I am certainly not a “grown up girl”.

Wilson is writing about a piece on The Drum by Melinda Tankard Reist on Brian McFadden’s latest single. Some of the lyrics are:

I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage


(For the best discussion of this song, check out this piece written by Clem Bastow.)

Wilson – who is using the piece to have a rant about Tankard Reist and Nina Funnell – writes:

But there is a difference between drunk, and passed out, and having sex when drunk isn’t the same thing as raping an unconscious woman. I don’t think McFadden is singing about the latter.

What is nowhere mentioned in the article is that women are responsible for their drinking behaviours, and a culture in which women believe that getting insensible on drink is a normal part of a good night out is also a vile one.

A woman has a responsibility to take care of herself. Nobody else can do that for her. It is a nasty world at times, particularly if you are of the drink and vomit, vomit and drink culture.

Sure, we all have some responsibility when it comes to drinking, like not stepping onto the road without looking, but should the victim be held responsible because someone else breaks the law?

There are two problems with her argument. The first is that it tells women that if they don’t get drunk, they won’t get raped. This is such a dangerous message. The latest stats from the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault reveal that 57 per cent of women surveyed had been physically or sexually assaulted at least once, but only one per cent said they were raped by a stranger. (Because the survey was conducted over the phone, it didn’t include women who are homeless, in prison, those in remote areas and those who don’t speak English. It’s a safe assumption that if those women were included, the numbers would be even higher.)

The second problem is that it says the victim is to blame because someone else commits a crime. If you don’t hear someone breaking into your house at night because you had too much to drink, we don’t blame you for it. You got robbed because someone robbed you.

Tankard Reist doesn’t blame McFadden for rape culture – which is, among many other things, the idea that if you don’t get drunk, don’t wear short skirts, don’t walk around by yourself after dark, don’t open the door to strangers, then you won’t get raped – but says songs like this help legitimise it. And that’s true.

Wilson writes:

Years of feminist rage against men seems to have achieved very little, as MTR admits, at least in the world of pop culture inhabited by millions of young women. It might be time to consider turning our attention to educating those women instead of wasting our energies blaming men. This is much harder, of course, but it might have a more successful outcome.

Hands up who did a self-defence class at school because the school thought it was a good way to prevent rape? And how many boys did an anti-rape class? Hmm? I’m not wasting my energy blaming all men for rape. I am blaming the rapists for rape. Just like I blame robbers for robbery. And Wilson is wrong. There is nothing in mainstream culture that says all men are rapists, but everything that says women are somehow responsible for being raped.

The first thing we should be educating girls and young women about is taking responsibility for their own choices and decisions. If you’re going to drink yourself senseless, bear in mind that you might get gang raped while you’re unconscious.

We apparently can’t stop some Neanderthals doing this, but maybe we can do our best to stop young women putting themselves into the situation in the first place. This will involve the whole village, of course, including the pubs and the parents, and not just some hapless male writer of horrible pop music.

We should be playing Rape Apologist Bingo here. If you get drunk, you’ll get gang-raped. We can’t stop them because boys will be boys. It’s only Neanderthals who rape, so you can spot them a mile off and avoid them.

Women and girls have been told this shit over and over again for decades and it hasn’t made one bit of difference. It seems we have been wasting our energies after all.

Police and rape myths

I’m not surprised that every dickhead with an internet connection leaves comments on news websites about how a rape victim deserved it because she’d been drinking. I’m disappointed that journalists – who are generally more educated and more small-l liberal than the general public – continue to peddle rape myths, such as if you drink you deserve to be raped. And now I’m just pissed off that even the police think you asked for it: Research tackles police ‘rape myths’:

New research has found police are more likely to press sex assault charges if the alleged victim did not drink alcohol or wear provocative clothing at the time of the offence.

The ABC story doesn’t have a lot of info – just five sentences – but the Charles Sturt media release is more informative:

Professor Goodman-Delahunty said that reporting to police is the first, and potentially, most important step in the legal processing of sexual assault cases, and common reasons given by victims of sexual assault for why they fail to report these crimes include fear of lack of support or disbelief by police.

“Rape myths are commonly held beliefs and attitudes about sexual assault cases that are generally false, such as the belief that rape is most likely to be perpetrated by a stranger. These myths can affect one’s view of a sexual assault victim and a perpetrator, as can contextual factors such as victim attire and victim intoxication, which may increase the perception that the complainant was responsible for the assault, or the perception that the complainant is not credible.”

The study found that officers in general don’t let their perception of the victim’s intoxication influence them, but if individual officers believe rape myths, they “perceived the complainant as less credible, attributed her greater responsibility for the incident and were less likely to believe that she communicated non-consent. They were also less likely to regard the alleged perpetrator as guilty of sexual assault, and were less likely to recommend that the alleged offender be charged.

Research from the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault found that only around 19 per cent of rapes are reported to police. And, as if this figure isn’t already too low, police investigate less than 40 per cent of these reports. And before you tell me that it’s because most women make it up, only 2.1 per cent of the reported cases were designated as false.

I’ve mentioned this here before, but in 2001 I was attacked by a taxi driver. I was coming home after a few too many wines. When I said ‘just here, thanks’, he didn’t stop. I repeated it. He kept driving. Then he turned down a dark residential street and sped up. He grabbed my leg (I was sitting in the back) and tried to pull me into the front of the car. I screamed and swore at him, and wound down the window and started yelling his driver ID number in the hope that someone would hear. He kept calling me a dirty slut and filthy whore and pulling on my leg. When I kicked him in the face, he stopped the car and turned to grab me again. I was halfway out the door before the car had even stopped moving, but he managed to grab my bag. There was no way I was letting him have it – it had my keys and address in it. We both pulled and the bag ripped in two. I scooped as much as I could out onto the road and slammed the door.

He drove off.

I had no idea where I was.

A man came out of his house and asked if I was ok. He told me I’d ended up three suburbs away.

I called my good friend and flatmate, who drove me straight to the police station.

I told the officer everything that happened and he took notes. Then he said that although he didn’t doubt my story – he said it happens all the time, taxi drivers preying on drunk female passengers – he’d have to put in the report that I’d been drinking. I was fine with that. He then talked me out of pressing charges. He said the driver would just claim I tried to do a runner and that he was trying to keep me in the cab until he got to a police station. He said security footage of me drinking at the bar earlier in the night would be shown in court, as evidence that I was of bad character. He said that because I wasn’t sexually assaulted or beaten up, it wasn’t worth pressing charges because I’m the one whose reputation would be damaged. He said to call the taxi company and make a complaint.

The woman on the phone at the taxi company was horrified. But she said all she could do was make a note of the complaint. They couldn’t pull the driver off the road until the police contacted them. Since I wasn’t pressing charges, they wouldn’t hear from the police.

For years afterwards, I only got in those taxis with that booth-thing around the driver. To protect me from him.

I don’t remember what I was wearing (it was in nine years ago), but it wouldn’t have been provocative. The most provocative thing I own is a small badge that says ‘I hate your band’. We’d been out for dinner and too many drinks after class, so I’m guessing it was trousers and a t-shirt. [Update: As Lexy pointed out in the comments below, my outfit has nothing to do with it. However, I wrote about what I was probably wearing to indicate that the police officer couldn’t have made a judgement about my story based on my outfit.]

In the years since, I’ve got some great lawyer friends who think I’m mad not to have pressed charges. But I was a broke student who believed him because he was a police officer and I have that weird middle-class respect for police officers. My point is that many people would believe an officer who said it wasn’t worth pressing charges. And if they’re making a judgement call about you based on unsubstantiated myths, then we have a serious problem.