‘Wrong type of woman’: Queensland taskforce hears of police disbelief of abuse allegations | Australian police and policing
A queer woman who allegedly experienced a “coordinated” sexual assault by two men claims police told her she “wasn’t the kind of woman who gets assaulted” when she reported the incident.
In a submission to Queensland’s women’s safety and justice taskforce, the woman said she was in her 20s when she was assaulted outside a major sporting event more than a decade ago.
One of the men approached her from behind before both men held her down and assaulted her, she said in the submission.
But when the woman – who has short hair and “presents more masculine” – tried to report the incident, she told the taskforce that the two male officers looked her “up and down” and didn’t allow her to lodge a report.
“In their words [there was] ‘nothing they could do’ all because I’m the wrong type of woman. They didn’t even ask if I was OK they just wanted me to go home,” she said in the submission.
The woman’s story is one of many harrowing submissions to the taskforce, which is currently undertaking an inquiry into women’s experiences across the criminal justice system.
It has received 304 submissions from victims, offenders, academics and organisations since February.
The Queensland police service (QPS) said it acknowledges “the importance of continuous improvement in our policing response, including looking at what more we can do to prevent and respond to sexual violence in our community”.
“The QPS is committed to ensuring policing services are accessible and that a professional and non-discriminatory policing response is provided to all members of the community. A number of specialist officers, including LGBTIQ+ liaison officers are within all police districts to support a comprehensive policing response,” a spokesperson said
In another submission to the taskforce, a woman says she was aged 15 when she felt discouraged from giving a statement at a police station.
“I was shown through a fellow victim’s interview window and explained how hard the process was and that it often wasn’t worth it,” she said in the submission.
“I never had my day in court to represent myself. I wish I had the correct support at the station and encouragement to move forward.”
Another woman told the taskforce that police had said she needed to “wait” for her abuser, who already had two domestic violence orders to his name, to attack her “again” before they would pursue the matter.
“The police can see a pattern, see he’s dangerous – yet they wait till a woman dies (or almost does) before they do anything/take it seriously,” she said in her submission.
“From beginning to end I’ve been met with … male police officers clearly lacking correct training for domestic violence.”
She said in the submission that charges against her former partner were subsequently laid and that they were awaiting trial. She did not outline what the charges were.
The QPS spokesperson said “police want the community to know sexual violence is never OK” and that those who have suffered a sexual assault will be listened to by police.
“Through an ongoing focus on enhanced officer training, stakeholder engagement, accessible reporting options and implementing an overarching sexual violence response strategy, the QPS is continuing to reform how it responds to sexual violence,” the spokesperson said.
“When a deficiency in procedure or practice is identified, appropriate action is taken to improve the service provided to the community.”
The taskforce’s chair, Margaret McMurdo, has said it was deeply concerned about the extent of sexual violence against women and girls and that often goes unreported.
“Victims of domestic violence seeking help from the police to keep themselves and their children safe should not have to enter a raffle to see if the officer they encounter will respond appropriately,” McMurdo said in a statement last year.
“When a woman who is seeking help is turned away by the police, she won’t go back.
“Police are the gateway to the justice system, and we need to do better.”
Queensland’s attorney general, Shannon Fentiman, said the Commission of Inquiry would find ways to improve how police respond to survivors of sexual, domestic and family violence.
“Hundreds of survivors told their story to the taskforce – we have heard their voices, and we will consider any improvements that can be made,” Fentiman said in a statement in May.
“We know the system needs to identify these dangerous patterns of controlling behaviour earlier.”
The taskforce’s final report due to be presented to the Queensland government by 30 June.