‘I have made a new friend’: How Jamie went ‘from Snapchat hello to rape in five days’
For 17-year-old schoolgirl 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.
Grace, a teacher at a Melbourne private school, and her daughter, Jamie, who was allegedly raped by a stranger she got to know on Snapchat in October last year.Credit:Penny Stephens
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’.”
At one point Grace walked past her daughter’s bedroom and noticed she had put lipstick on, “I was like, I’m just going to leave this, I’m not sure I want to know. I’m just going to walk away – perhaps I shouldn’t have.”
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 at home, 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.
“He was like, you would do this if you loved me, you would meet me if you loved me. 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.
The police told me it would come to his word against hers, and their hands were tied.
“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.
“They don’t have the evidence to prove either way, and they don’t have enough because the bar [for proving there was no consent] is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and that bar is very high.
“Also, we’ve got this whole mode [of communication] where Snapchat becomes a weapon to facilitate rape. It’s outside the law because it leaves no trace.”
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.
Victoria Police on Friday confirmed a report of alleged sexual offending that occurred at a train platform in Melbourne’s east was received in October 2020 and that 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.
Victoria’s Attorney General Jaclyn Symes : “No family should have to go through what this family has experienced.”Credit:Eddie Jim
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 … Victoria also has the opportunity to go further and include that the consent needs to be proven by the perpetrator as enthusiastic consent, and therefore lead the way in Australia in this area,” she wrote.
Ms Symes told The Sunday Age on Friday, “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.”
Swinburne University law lecturer and executive director of Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy, Dr Rachael Burgin, said her group had approached the Victorian Law Reform Commission regarding the inclusion of affirmative consent laws in the commission’s proposed reforms.
“We need a mandatory requirement that a person who is seeking to have sex with another person takes reasonable active steps to make sure the other person is consenting – that is where Victoria falls down.“
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”.
Cyber safety expert and former Victorian policewoman Susan McLean said there was a large increase in grooming of young people online while Australian children were locked down in 2020, the evidence of which is starting to emerge.
“I am being inundated by parents wanting advice about grooming and overtly sexualised behaviour, mainly of their daughters, online.
“I am being inundated by parents wanting advice about grooming and overtly sexualised behaviour, mainly of their daughters, online.”
She said young people must be helped to understand the difference between friends and people they meet online: “A friend is someone you meet up with in real life and then hang out with online, a stranger you have been contacted by online is never, ever a friend.“
The perception grooming takes a lot of time, “so parents would get wind of it” was also often wrong.
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 have lots of trauma, every time I go out of the house my brain automatically comes to ‘what would I do if I did see him, he knows where I live, what would I do if he tried to approach me?’ … I just go over and over that in my head,” she says. “I can’t catch public transport without wanting to break down.
“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.
- Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
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