Story & photo Eve Jeffery
In 1994, Faith was tortured and raped for five hours on Main Beach, Byron Bay.
The monster who did this to her came close to killing her yet today Faith feels lucky.
Not lucky that she survived and certainly not lucky that she was raped, but lucky that in the days after her attack she was not treated as if she was somehow to blame for her ordeal, as if she had asked for it.
When Echonetdaily spoke to Faith last year she chose to tell her story anonymously for fear of exposure to the perpetrator under the very real threat of her assailant being given parole, but the impending SlutWalk in Byron Bay has moved Faith to come forward and speak out against those who blame and shame women.
‘I hope it will be helpful for other victims of sexual assault to understand that even though it can be a very shaming experience they are not to blame. If I can step out and say “this happened to me” I feel it might give hope to others, it will encourage others to come forward. There is still a massive problem of under-reporting.’
Why does she feel lucky? After Faith was assaulted she had obvious physical injuries.
She had been punched and stabbed and for weeks afterward she says that she was treated gently within the Byron Bay community. ‘It was a bit different for me. People could see that I had been attacked.
‘There was a lot of compassion. The people that supported me were the people in the shops, the police, people in the bank, even strangers in the street. I was never blamed because I was the stereotypical rape victim.
‘I had clearly been bashed and there had been a lot of obvious violence.’ Faith says it wasn’t until later years when bruises and memory faded that people started to question her culpability in the attack. ‘There are many different types of victim blaming that go on in our community.
‘There is a lot of hippy new-age stuff, things like “what did you do to deserve that?” or “your karma must have been really bad”. I was asked once if I felt like I was responsible.
‘People have said these things to me. Interestingly it was never men who said these things, only women.’ Faith says she feels this blaming attitude that many women have is a pseudo-safety mechanism. ‘We all know that no means no. In our heads we know this but there is an insidious undercurrent, a need to blame the victim.
‘I believe that this comes from women needing to feel safe and if they can lay the blame at the feet of the victim then they will be safe. They say that “if I don’t wear a short skirt or if I don’t kiss someone I meet at the pub or if I don’t walk down the street by myself late at night then this will not happen to me”.
‘I understand that this is a normal reaction. If they point out all the “wrong” things a rape victim did that led to her becoming the victim and then avoid those things, they will be safe. Women of every age get raped. Women in every situation, in every socio-economic bracket. Blaming a woman for being raped does not immunise you against it.’ Faith says she personally hasn’t changed the way she dresses. ‘I didn’t ever do that because I believe that a woman should be able to wear what she wants and I believe it is our human right to express ourselves through the clothes we wear. Women shouldn’t have to restrict what they wear and how much flesh they choose to expose. Everyone has the basic human right dress how they want to dress and act how they want to act without fear of someone else’s criminal impulse.’
Faith says that she hopes to send a strong message at this Saturday’s SlutWalk and this is why she is coming out, as it were.
‘I feel that it’s time I put a face to my experience. It is important for someone to stand up as an example. I want people to know that I am not ashamed of what happened to me. You are a victim of a crime.
‘You wouldn’t expect a person to be ashamed if they were robbed, were a victim of a hold-up, so women shouldn’t feel ashamed if they are a victim of this crime.’
The Byron SlutWalk will start from Railway Park at midday on Saturday.