ActivePaper Archive Plea to change consent laws after Jamie went from a Snapchat 'hello' to rape in five days - The Age, 4/25/2021

From a Snapchat ‘hello’ to rape


Grace and her daughter, Jamie.

Photo: Penny Stephens

For 17-year-old Jamie, Melbourne’s long second lockdown took a toll – she was cut off from friends, having recently started at a new school.

When a boy from 38 kilometres across town messaged Jamie on popular teen app Tellonym to ask if she would add him on Snapchat, she decided to allow it.

He told her he was 15, and at first the messages were benign enough.

‘‘He said he was really into basketball and anime, and I love anime as well so I was like: ‘This is awesome, what’s your favourite anime?’ I said I was watching Dragon Ball Z at that time.’’

Jamie’s mother, Grace, a teacher at a Melbourne private school, noticed the frenetic speed at which the boy’s messages arrived over the next two days.“They were constant, she was walking around the house and getting them at least two per minute, it was just incessant,’’ Grace says.

‘‘She was smiling at some of the messages. She said, ‘Mum, I’ve made a new friend’.’’

Jamie says the boy began to pester her for nude photos, which she declined. ‘‘He just kept asking and asking, he wore me down; he wasn’t going away no matter how many times I said ‘no’,’’ she said.

She relented and sent him suggestive (but not nude) photographs and, also after incessant requests, told him where she lived.

Within two days, he messaged Jamie to tell her he was on a train to visit her, and after initially refusing to see him, when the youth said ‘‘if you really liked me you would agree to meet me, I’m coming all this way to see you’’, Jamie agreed to meet him at a train station.

‘‘I was like, stupid me thinking someone is paying attention to me, someone actually likes me.’’

When the youth arrived at an eastern suburbs platform, Jamie realised he was much older than she had been led to believe. Within five minutes, he guided Jamie into a toilet cubicle, stood between Jamie and the door and allegedly raped her multiple times as she remained ‘‘terrified’’ and frozen.

‘‘I felt trapped, I couldn’t escape... I didn’t run away, scream, push him away. I didn’t attack him or make any noise,’’ said Jamie.

‘‘It was almost like I was submitting because I was like ‘I just want to get through this, what if I try to push back at him, what if I try to get to the door, what’s he going to do?’ I just remember my whole body hurting.’’

The youth stopped during the alleged attack to take photographs. ‘‘He knew exactly what he wanted, exactly how to do it and how to make it happen,’’ Grace says.

The young man, whose name the family does still not know, effectively succeeded in going ‘‘from Snapchat hello to rape in five days’’. And, Grace fears, getting away with it due to Victoria’s consent laws and Snapchat’s lack of retention of communication.

Grace says she was told by forensic staff who performed the rape kit examination on Jamie at the Monash Children’s Hospital that ‘‘the prevalence and regularity which they’re doing rape kits [after such incidents] is startling, growing in number, and is scary’’.

However, police who found and interviewed the alleged perpetrator told her they did not believe there was sufficient evidence the youth knew he did not have Jamie’s consent.

Grace says she was told the man was found relatively quickly using CCTV and myki data, and information Jamie provided. He confessed to all acts Jamie said had been done to her but insisted he had no reason to believe any of it was non-consensual because Jamie did not fight or try to run away.

Due to Snapchat’s default setting to delete conversations, there is no evidence of manipulation or coercion. ‘‘The police told me it would come to his word against hers, and their hands were tied,’’ Grace says.

A spokesman for Snapchat said: ‘‘We are horrified to learn of this situation. There is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of our Snapchat community, and this type of activity is firmly against our guidelines.

‘‘We are committed to working together with law enforcement in this case and in all instances where Snapchat is used for illegal purposes; especially when it involves a minor.’’

Grace says she was told by investigating officers that Snapchat did not return attempts to contact it.

Police on Friday confirmed a report of alleged sexual offending at a train platform in Melbourne’s east was received in October 2020, and the Transit Safety Division of the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team had investigated. The matter has been referred to the Office of Public Prosecutions, after Grace wrote to Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes asking for a review.

On Wednesday, Grace wrote to Ms Symes a second time, asking that Victoria’s consent laws be revised because ‘‘the burden of proof lies with the victim to prove there was no consent. Therefore, putting the victim on trial’’.

She asked that Tasmanian-style laws, where ‘‘the burden of proof lies with the accused to prove the steps and actions they took to gain consent at the beginning and during and sexual encounter’’, be introduced in Victoria.

‘‘Victims should not be the ones put on trial,’’ she wrote.

Ms Symes told The Sunday Age that ‘‘no family should have to go through what this family has experienced – my thoughts are with them’’.

‘‘All forms of sexual violence are unacceptable,’’ she said.

‘‘We want to make sure our laws respond effectively to sexual offending, so victim-survivors feel supported in coming forward to report their experience and confident in obtaining justice.

‘‘That’s why we’ve asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review our laws relating to rape, sexual assault and associated adult and child sexual offences – including the issue of consent.’’

A Law Reform Commission spokesman said recommendations were at draft stage and would be delivered to the Attorney-General at the end of August. The commission was ‘‘looking forward to delivering some recommendations that will bring about very positive change’’.

Jamie is hopeful her mother’s campaign will result in changes that could prevent other young people having their lives affected as dramatically as hers has been.

‘‘I can’t catch public transport without wanting to break down,’’ Jamie said. ‘‘If this has happened to me, how many other people has this happened to? If this can happen so easily, how many other people are getting away with it?’’

Grace’s and Jamie’s names were changed due to Victorian laws regarding identification of minors who are victims of alleged sexual assault.

National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).