Three men who raped 14-year-old girl walk free. Here's why
WHEN Amy* was just 14 years old, she was raped by a group of adult men one afternoon in regional Australia
Following the attack, Amy, her mother Sandy* and the rest of their family wanted justice served, and for the alleged rapists to be put behind bars.
Speaking to Insight on SBS, Sandy - who, along with Amy, cannot be identified for legal reasons - revealed the moment she found out what had happened to her young daughter.
"They [police] took us in to a room, and they sat us down and I think I said to one of the police officers 'has Amy been raped', and he very quietly but very directly said 'yes'," Sandy told Insight journalist and presenter, Jenny Brockie.
"Both of us were distraught. We knew that she had been raped multiple times by three, possibly four grown men who were not known to her."
Sandy said when she arrived at the police station, she found her daughter "badly bruised" and "lying in a room".
"She had marks around her neck," Sandy said.
"She was at that stage sleeping and in a very bad state of shock. When they woke her very gently, she just burst into tears."
In the weeks following the alleged attack, Amy* knew that the legal road ahead to bring the men to justice wouldn't be easy. As a young teenager still suffering from trauma, she would be the primary witness in the trial against her alleged attackers.
But nobody knew how tough the legal proceedings would be on the high school student.
Amy - who is now 17 years old and didn't appear on the program for legal reasons - wrote a letter following her rape, which detailed why she decided to drop the trial altogether.
"After the initial shock, I knew I wanted to see justice served," Amy's note read.
"But being 14 at the time, I was so naive about how the legal system worked. I definitely knew it wouldn't be easy, but it turned out to be one of the most horrible and traumatic times ever."
Amy explained in the letter how the trial was consuming her life while she attended school, and that she couldn't think of anything else aside from recounting the horror of her alleged rape.
"I couldn't stand the thought of being interrogated and drilled for days on end," she explained.
"Not to mention the sterile and serious atmosphere where everyone wore clean-cut suits and spoke in legal terms I wouldn't understand.
"I tried to be strong in front of all these adults, but I was on the verge of tears the majority of the time. A courtroom is no place for a child."
Sandy said her daughter's decision to drop the case wasn't an easy one to make.
"Both the prosecution and the defence put evidence and made statements that were incredibly damaging for us," Sandy said.
"They [said] really graphic details about her rapes. They were malicious. They were undermining her character. And there was no suppression order [meaning] everyone she knew, knew the details of her rapes.
"Comments that they made about her character ... it devastated her, and it devastated us and there's no coming back."
Before the trial commenced following the bail hearing, Amy was told she could be cross-examined by up to three defence barristers and that the proceeding would be "brutal" for the traumatised teen.
Going into her final year of school, Amy decided she couldn't continue with the legal process and decided to drop the case.
"One of the reasons we decided to discontinue is because the QC who was going to take her to trial said to us, and said to Amy, 'What you need to understand is the cross-examination will be brutal,'" Sandy explained.
"She used that word because there would be three defence barristers asking the same questions and that she alone would have three to five days of cross-examination."
Sandy said she felt the whole legal process was about confusing her daughter, and not about finding the truth.
"The process was about confusing her," she said.
"The process was about discrediting her and the process was about the theatre of the jury, and the defence barristers would be looking at trying to get them to think that there was probable doubt.
"The process wasn't about the truth ... and that's one of the things that made us discontinue."
Sandy said the injustice makes her feel "sick", but relieved her daughter wasn't further traumatised by the legal proceedings.
"She [Amy] felt like she was letting other women down," Sandy explained.
"She really wanted to take it through so she could actually demonstrate you can do this, but that simply wasn't possible.
"We got advice from a psychologist who said it [the trial] could be as damaging as the rapes themselves, and it would undermine all of the good work.
"They are walking free and there is no justice for us. And I don't think there ever will be."
Insight appears on SBS each Tuesday at 8.30pm.
* Names changed for legal reasons.