x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Australian woman tells of ordeal

When Amanda went to police to report that she had allegedly been drugged and gang-raped by colleagues, she thought the worst of her ordeal was behind her.


She cautions others to be aware there are risks to reporting When Amanda went to police to report that she had allegedly been drugged and gang-raped by colleagues, she thought the worst of her ordeal was behind her. Instead, days later she found herself branded a criminal and locked in a dirty prison cell. She was sentenced to a year in prison for having had sex outside wedlock, and she spent eight months in jail before being released.

The 27-year-old Australian was working as a manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah in June last year when she said she went for a drink in the staff bar. She said she began talking with three male colleagues. One of the men told her he was adding ice to her drink. That was one of her last recollections of the evening, she claims. She said she awoke the following afternoon semi-naked and confused, her body covered in bruises and scrapes.

"I didn't know what had happened but I knew something was wrong because of the state of me and my room," she said. "I was told that one of my neighbours heard me screaming at about two or three in the morning and called the security guards. "They said they came to my room and found three or four men in my room and that I was unconscious. The security guards made the men leave, but then they just left me."

Amanda not her real name said she reported the incident to police 48 hours later. They arrested the men but to her astonishment, she was also arrested and charged with offences including adultery and drinking alcohol without a licence. Despite the fact that she had contacted police, her claim that she had been raped was dismissed as a fabrication and she was prosecuted along with her alleged attackers. She and the men were all sentenced to one year in prison for unlawful sex and related offences.

Several developments complicated her defence. The doctor who examined her concluded that the bruising on her body could have occurred during normal sex and did not prove she had been beaten, and tests found no trace of drugs in her system. She says she believes the drugs disappeared in the 48 hours that elapsed before she approached police. Also problematic was the testimony of the security guards. Amanda claims they altered their accounts throughout the course of the case.

"First they said they came to the room and found me unconscious," she said. "They said they saw the men in my room and threw them out. "Then later they said they only saw the men in the hall outside my room. "In the end, they said I was not unconscious and that I appeared to give consent and wouldn't let the security guards remove one of the men." According to appeal court documents obtained by The National, judges dismissed her claim that she was attacked because there were no witnesses and her injuries could have occurred during consensual sex.

"In response to what the lawyer of the accused person Number 4 raised, that she was subject to rape while she was unconscious due to being drunk and being attacked by another person, this defence is deemed as not being serious as no one witnessed her beating," the documents say. "The court concludes that she was aware of her actions and aware of what the others were doing with her, with her consent, ranging from seclusion to adultery and indecent, honour damaging acts.

"Her claim that she was not aware at the time of those actions, because she lost consciousness due to being drunk or being beaten, was made with the intention of trying to avoid the charges against her." The case received international attention and was raised during diplomatic negotiations between Australia and the UAE. Amanda spent two months on remand at Fujairah Central Women's Prison before her sentencing.

She was released in February, after serving another six months, as part of an amnesty to celebrate a royal wedding, and left for Australia straightaway. She is now back with her family in Brisbane, where she says she is readjusting and trying to use her experience as a warning to other women working in the UAE. "I was shocked they didn't believe me," she said. "It was terrifying. It was like a nightmare. I didn't know who to turn to for help."