When the rape accusations against my 18 year-old son Toby fell apart in court and he was found not guilty, there were tears in the eyes of female jurists.
The morning after my son’s 18th birthday he was charged with rape.
My son – I’ll call him “Toby” had had a big night out on the town, ending up extremely intoxicated after everyone was buying him drinks for his birthday. He awoke on the couch in a stranger’s house, fully clothed, with no idea what had happened the night before.
Next thing the police were at our home, asking to speak to Toby. They asked me to leave to question him. Agreeing to this was my first big mistake. My son was happy to talk to them because he didn’t think anything was wrong.
By the following day I was visiting Toby in jail after he was charged in relation to an alleged rape of a young woman, a female he had gone to school with and thought of as a friend. Bail had been denied by a local judge, apparently due to the father of the girl making death threats against my son. Rather than lock up this man, they put Toby in prison – allegedly for his own safety!
There are no words to describe that prison visit. My son didn’t remember anything of this alleged incident and was constantly saying, ‘Why would I rape her? I don’t need to’; and ‘I wouldn’t ever force any girl to have sex with me’, whilst tears freely flowed down his cheeks. He was reaching out to me through the perspex and suffering in ways I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t even hold his hand. It was gut-wrenching.
My beautiful young man, who I believe we raised to be a decent human being, looked like a scared caged animal. I am lucky enough to have small enough wrists to be able to squeeze my hand through to touch my boy, who was desperately trying to reach out and touch his Dad as well. The tears coming from fear and anguish flowed uncontrollably as did the sobs. My husband’s emotions overwhelmed him. It is indescribable to see such a strong man broken in this way by the sight of his son being carried away to prison for a crime we were sure he did not commit.
Toby was transferred to a maximum-security prison where he was held for 7 days whilst we applied to the Supreme court for bail. During this ordeal he endured over-tightened handcuffs which left his wrists bruised, air-conditioning turned up as cold as it would go for the four-hour ride inside the prison vehicle; snide and derogatory comments from prison wardens, inappropriate comments from police and nightmares from inside prison walls. “So is your cock sore from banging her?” asked one of the detectives during Toby’s first interview.
It was only after an expensive Supreme Court hearing that we managed to get our boy home on bail to await whatever nightmare was to come next. Following Toby’s release from prison, he attempted to go back to a semblance of normal life with the dread of the trial always darkening his thoughts.
At one point I called the police station to see if there was any new evidence on the case. I was shocked to be answered by the detective involved who screamed at me saying, “New evidence? Oh, we have new evidence alright and we are locking this down!” Understandably I was quite shaken and very upset with how this conversation had progressed.
My concern for Toby’s mental wellbeing was taking its toll. He’d had taken to consuming large amounts of alcohol trying to numb the pain and erase the memories that haunted his sleep. It’s hard to describe the worry when you don’t know if the call will come that tells you your child has taken their own life, and for what, someone’s lies??
The emotions are a mixed bag, anger that someone can do this to an innocent person with total disregard to the consequences, sadness for the loss of innocence, not only for Toby but his sisters as well, frustration at a legal system that didn’t seem to give a damn about truth and justice. Many, many nights were spent crying either in the shower or silently in my bed, just to be able to face each day, with that brave face for the kids and the outside world.
We are ordinary people, with no training in investigation of crimes, or any kind of legal research. Yet there seemed to be so many aspects of the evidence that were given credibility where there was none, and others that were being ignored.
Despite forwarding us witness statements which didn’t collaborate the complainant’s story, the police took no notice of the many inconsistencies. It took us eight months to receive the DNA evidence which showed Toby’s DNA was not present in or on the alleged victim, only on the end of the bed cover. But present in her vagina was DNA from two other males. It was impossible for my son to have had unprotected, non-consensual penetrative intercourse with the alleged victim, as claimed.
Then there was her phone log, with over 12,000 text messages, proving she was having a lengthy phone conversation and subject text messages when she was apparently being raped, as well as other SMS conversations disproving other allegations she had made. It turned out also that she had made similar accusations against other males to cover up the fact she was cheating on her boyfriend. Yet none of this raised alarm bells within our supposed justice system.
We didn’t understand why the system seemed to be designed to make our son look guilty rather than assuming his innocence and proving guilt. This took such an enormous toll on us, financially and emotionally. I had to leave my job to simply manage the thinking work of going through the evidence files. It consumed me day and night.
The trial ran for a full week, evidence was heard, witnesses were cross examined. As it progressed revealing the text messages and DNA evidence, the accuser’s lies started to unravel. Even as we listened to the prosecution case fall apart, we were terrified that it wouldn’t be enough; that somewhere someone had already decided, and we would lose our boy permanently.
After what seemed an eternity when the jury went to deliberate, the huge relief of NOT GUILTY was read out in the court on all charges. When my boy finally got to me, it was the best hug that we have shared ever! To our utter amazement, as we walked outside the courthouse the jury members were waiting with applause and congratulation. They shook Toby’s hand, gave him hugs and wished him well. Wow, what an outcome and we couldn’t have wished for a better ending.
Never before had the court seen such a reaction to a not guilty verdict. This came after a 16-month ordeal that cost my son more than $50,000 and nearly cost our family its sanity as we battled to wade through the sheer magnitude of the lies from the accused and the incompetence of the investigating police who seemed all too eager to believe a mischievous and promiscuous young woman’s tale of sexual assault even when presented with significant evidence to the contrary.
We returned to our small community and approached the local police station to make a complaint in regards to this girl’s vicious lies. Lies that put an innocent young man and his family through immeasurable hurt - psychologically, emotionally and financially, for what purpose? To avoid being caught cheating on her boyfriend again? Maybe it was because our son had rejected her in the past? The response we received was quite shocking. The officer in charge of the station was not interested at all, telling us to, ‘Go away, you received a not guilty verdict. Be happy with that’.
But this is not over by a long shot. My son has been left with a legal bill of over $50,000 for something he didn’t do, a lot of money for anyone to owe particularly when you are an apprentice. We also witnessed a blatant case of perjury with the alleged victim having a total disregard for the law.
Complaints to the Crime and Corruption Commission and Police Integrity Unit about the conduct of the incompetent initial investigation fell on deaf ears. The detective in question actually called me and stated he couldn’t believe how he had been manipulated by the alleged victim. Why tell me this and still fail to hold her accountable?
We have been met with comments by police to basically ‘move on with your lives’. We cannot accept this response. We cannot allow this person to be able to walk free, possibly do this to someone else and not face the consequences of her actions. If this person is not prosecuted then, as a society, are we not condoning this behaviour?
This experience has left us feeling that the justice system has failed us. Police cannot be trusted and unless you are female, you have no rights. Sadly, our son is not the first to experience this horrific ordeal and he certainly won’t be the last. How many men’s lives need to be lost before there is any action? How many lives need to be destroyed by the lives of these vindictive females?
The next man charged will be someone else’s son, brother, husband or father, maybe even yours. No family is immune to this injustice and until you experience it there are no words to adequate to describe the depths of despair, the fear, or the questions about whether there will ever be normal life again.
Do’s and Don’ts
You need to search for anything that can prove your innocence. A couple of key things to note: you cannot give consent if you are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs – the alleged victim declared that she was sober.
Read more stories from mothers of sons who have faced injustice here