For more than a year, Sophie’s* boyfriend joked about performing a particular sexual act with her — but every time he brought it up, she told him it was never going to happen.
Then, one night in January 2017, Sophie and her boyfriend arrived home from a night out drinking in Brisbane and started having sex.
Somewhere in the middle of it, her boyfriend grabbed her and performed the sex act she had been saying no to for the past 18 months.
Sophie, already a survivor of a previous sexual assault, lay there, frozen.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening to me again. He knew my past, he knew what had happened to me,” she said.
After finishing, Sophie’s boyfriend went to the bathroom, not realising she was still lying there, frozen in fear.
When he came back, he asked her what was wrong. When she started crying, he realised.
“People say sexual consent is hard to understand, but generally it’s pretty evident if someone stops participating in sex,” she said.
“You don’t have to literally check in but it’s usually pretty clear if someone’s into it or not, and certainly he had enough to go on to know when he had to stop.”
RELATED: Mum’s rape case dropped after man uses mistake of fact defence
Despite always responding with “absolutely not” every time her ex-boyfriend broached the sex act subject, he still allegedly pushed on.
“Initially he had no idea he’d done something wrong, but then that night he told me he wanted to turn himself into the police,” she said.
“He was very remorseful, calling himself a rapist countless times and crying. He wanted to turn himself in, but I think he realised the serious nature of what could happen — like he could go to jail — and that’s when he changed his mind.”
Sophie tried to forgive him but eventually their relationship broke down and she moved back to her parents’ place.
One night, her distressed ex-boyfriend stood outside the home and screamed he was a rapist.
“Obviously, it all changes once you get legal advice,” she said.
The trauma of the alleged 2017 rape was compounded when Sophie found the courage to go to the police and report it two months later.
“They tried to turn me off from the beginning. They said it was incredibly unlikely it was going to go anywhere, but I was a law student at the time so I already had background on that but it was important for me to see it through,” she said.
‘JADED’ COPS GIVE UP ON INVESTIGATION
Less than two months after reporting the alleged rape to police, detectives called Sophie and told her they’d taken it as far as they could — the police prosecutor wouldn’t be taking it to court.
Her ex-boyfriend had received word police were investigating him and had received legal advice.
His lawyer, as most defence lawyers in Queensland do in sexual assault cases, advised him of a defence called mistake of fact.
The defence allows men accused of rape to say they had an honest and reasonable — but mistaken — belief a woman had consented to sex.
Legal experts describe it as an “outdated and confusing” defence grounded in the way society behaved in the 19th century.
Sexual assault advocates take it one step further and say the law is the best and easiest way rapists can keep themselves out of jail and conviction-free.
For Sophie, police being forced to drop her case because of the defence was another slap in the face.
The 25-year-old could tell the detectives were jaded by the often-fruitless pursuit of investigating sexual assault.
“The detectives wouldn’t call me and when I would call the station to follow up they would try and talk me out of it. ‘There’s no evidence, it’ll just be your word against him, it’s not going to go anywhere,’” she recounted.
“Of course, that did happen — but it doesn’t give you much confidence they’re going to do their job if they’re already hopeless.
“I don’t believe it was malicious, they’re just jaded.”
Detectives eventually built up enough circumstantial evidence to talk to prosecutors and even called Sophie’s ex-boyfriend to encourage him to confess — but he never picked up the phone.
“When he was asked to speak with the police directly, that’s when he got legal advice, and as any lawyer would tell them, mistake of fact is the way to go,” she said.
“He had a chance to get all his ducks in a row so by the time police questioned him he was iron clad. I think if he was approached earlier, maybe he would’ve been scared and told the truth. You only get one shot at that.”
Sophie hopes, in the future, police are better resourced to handle sexual assault cases.
“I wish the police would’ve supported me the whole way. It’s a pretty brave thing signing up to report sexual assault in this current climate,” the 25-year-old said.
“I wish they hadn’t talked me down. They should’ve said, ‘We’re going to do everything we can’, even if they couldn’t get a result. I’d hear police talk about burglaries and other crimes they had going on and it didn’t rate compared to that.”
‘YOU FAILED ME’: SOPHIE’S DEVASTATING LETTER TO COP
The day police came to her house to tell her it was all over, an equally heartbroken and furious Sophie wrote a two-page letter to the detective who was in charge of her case. She never handed it to him.
In her letter, which Sophie still wishes she gave the detective, the 25-year-old implored him to try harder next time.
“Don’t fail another girl,” she wrote.
“Be the cop you’d want working your daughter’s rape.”
Sophie has given news.com.au permission to publish her two-page letter to the detective in full:
An open letter to the detective who worked my rape case:
To respect your privacy, I will address you as John, but that is a courtesy that perhaps you do not deserve, John.
Believe me, you do not know the internal struggle of making the decision to report the man you thought you’d marry to the police for rape.
I walked into the police station knowing I would walk out more upset and angry than I had walked in.
Thank God for the angel, Constable (redacted), who, even though was in way over his head for a traffic cop, was the epitome of a professional and a gentleman.
Oh my God, I thought. Maybe we will actually get him.
Here’s where you let me down for the first time, John.
See — you got to choose to take my case. I did not get to choose you.
I went back to work told that you would be calling me later that day.
By the time I called in for you, you’d already left. For a week.
Oh — my blood boiled. I wish I had known then that this would be the first of many bitter disappointments I would suffer at your hand.
At time, you were supportive and I was comforted by this.
But, mostly, I left every interaction with you feeling completely enraged and hopeless.
You chose a profession where you deal with people at their most vulnerable, but you no longer, and perhaps never did, have the personality to be able to do this in the required way.
You and I spoke about the night I was … raped by the only man I ever trusted, and we talked in great detail, and you barely blinked.
I know perhaps that comes from years in the Force, but come on. Even some forced or faked humanity goes a long way.
You were negligent in your handling of my case; your inaction resulted in my rapist having enough warning to gain legal representation.
Because of you, my case will be open forever.
Or just until he rapes someone else, right?
John, you sat at my dining room table, telling me you weren’t working my case anymore, and your hands shook.
Why did they shake, John? Did you know it was wrong? Were you afraid this would be the final straw and tip me over the edge?
On this, you don’t get a do-over.
You can’t change this outcome now; it is too late.
You f***ed the only chance I had at justice.
Can you live with that?
Can you look yourself in the eye and say that you did all you could?
You failed me, John.
Next time you meet a small, sad girl, angry at the world because it let her be raped, I hope you think of me. I hope you think of all you could’ve done differently, and I hope you hold her and and tell her that you’ll hit that f***er with everything you have.
Don’t fail another girl. Be the cop you’d want working your daughter’s rape.
TRAUMA COMPOUNDED BY EARLIER RAPE
Sophie was also raped in 2011 while she was an 18-year-old university student in a NSW country town.
The female detectives investigating the rape asked her what she was wearing and if she’d been drinking.
“They said, ‘Are you sure you didn’t say yes and regret it now?’”
Sophie later learned the man she was allegedly raped by as a teenager had a “reputation” around town for taking advantage of girls.
‘NEEDS OF VICTIM ARE PARAMOUNT’: POLICE
While Queensland Police would not be drawn on the specifics of Sophie’s case, it said it was worked hard to provide greater support for sexual assault providers but was always honest with them about the difficulties of the justice system.
“In sexual assault investigations, the wishes, privacy, health and safety needs of the victim are paramount,” a spokesman said in a statement.
“The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has investigators across the state who have received specialist sexual assault investigation training. Officers will provide advice to victims about the investigative and prosecution processes and the implications of these from the victim’s perspective.
“Not every complaint will proceed to a prosecution. There may be insufficient evidence available to support the commencement of a prosecution or the victim may choose not to proceed with their complaint.
“A recent initiative by the Department of Health has seen the statewide introduction of ‘Just in Case’ examinations giving victims of sexual assault the choice to attend a health facility and have a forensic examination completed without the need for police involvement at that time. Victims then have up to 12 months to decide whether to make a complaint to police.”
QPS said there was “significant work” being done to prevent sexual violence.
“The QPS has specialist officers working in the Criminal Investigation Branch and Child Protection and Investigation Units located across the state who are trained to deal with sexual offence investigations,” the spokesman said.
“The regions are supported by specialist investigation units including the Sexual Crimes Unit, Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group, State Crime Command who respond to serious or complex cases of serial rape and sexual assault and provide specialist investigative assistance to regional areas.
“There are various levels of mandatory and discretionary investigative and awareness training undertaken by police regarding responses to sexual assaults and dealing with vulnerable persons.
“This includes a range of investigative courses, recruit training and online learning products specialising in dealing with victims and a greater focus on domestic and family violence. For instance, the Investigating Sexual Assault — Corroborating and Understanding Relationship Evidence (ISACURE) course, is a specialist course designed to promote best practice in the investigation of adult sexual offences to ensure a higher level of service to victims.
“The course promotes a better understanding of victims of sexual abuse and the impact that sexual violence has on victims.”
* Not her real name
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call triple-0