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mercoledì 9 novembre 2016
"Project Xan": Rape Culture On Stage
Xan Fraser takes the stage and tells the story of her gang rape when she was 12 years old
WHEN Xan Fraser was 12 years old she left her family home in a small Queensland town to go rollerskating with a friend. It was 1981 and rollerskating was all the rage.
On her way to the rink she came across another girl who convinced her to go to a house party instead. She now describes it as “one of the biggest mistakes” of her life.
Upon arriving at the party she was plied with alcohol to the point where she passed out.
Three older boys carried her by her arms and legs to a bush block where they stripped her and gang raped her. She was sodomised and “played with ... for hours”.
When they were done they carried her back to an old panel van near the house.
They put her naked body on the dash, and her head through the steering wheel. They left her for dead in near-freezing temperatures.
Later, two passers-by found her and called an ambulance.
She woke up in hospital with her mother crying and holding her hand. Her mother had to explain to her what had happened.
The three males were arrested and according to police documents they admitted to raping and indecently dealing with the unconscious girl.
At the trial at the Queensland Supreme Court later that year, Xan — still 12 years old — was required to appear as a witness, and was grilled about how much make-up she had been wearing that night and how tight her jeans were.
She now sees it as a blatant case of victim blaming.
“I was just so angry in my head at the time ... I kept thinking ‘why are you picking on me? I’m not the one who has hurt anybody’.”
Stunningly, the three males escaped jail. They were found guilty of indecent dealing and attempted rape and were sentenced to just two years probation.
At the sentencing Justice John Macrossan — who went on to become the Chief Justice of Queensland — said: “There is no doubt in my mind that the offence occurred as a result of the very large quantity of drink which the girl took acting with complete imprudence and utter disregard for her own wellbeing.
“Had the girl ... retained some degree of consciousness it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in that condition she may have consented to your acts. Who’s to know? ... The girl has not been, so far as I can judge, in any way upset by her experience ... I do not think I have ever heard in the witness box from a more composed 12-year-old.”
It took 30 years for Xan to bring herself to read his remarks. And when she did, she screamed for an hour. She said it felt like she had been raped again.
“It would have given me so much closure if I could have stood in a courtroom with (Justice Macrossan) again,” she told news.com.au.
“That’s probably the most traumatised I have ever been in my life, reading that statement.”
Sadly, the horror for Xan didn’t end with the rape.
After she came home from hospital she was bullied by other children in the community.
She had lit cigarettes put out on her legs and her jaw was dislocated. She retaliated twice by hitting back and as a result was expelled from two separate schools.
“But I just feel it’s in my heart and soul to do it … it means everything to me. Developing the play has been a very therapeutic process.”
Rape culture has made international headlines in the past year. This year Stanford University student Brock Turner received a six-month sentence and was released after three for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman behind a garbage bin.
Xan — who is pursuing damages from the Queensland Government — feels the issue of victim-blaming needs to be urgently addressed.
“It’s still going on to this day … we need to — as a community and a society — do something about it. If this [show] helps a little bit, then that’s all I really want out of this,” she said.
She is devastated that the judge who presided over her case is no longer alive.
She says the whole experience hardened her.
“I just thought ‘the worst thing in the world has happened to me — there’s nothing that can hurt me now’. I rebelled against everyone and everything because no one helped me,” she said.
At 13, Xan had a baby — to protect herself from the physical abuse.
“I knew people didn’t hit pregnant people and that’s why I chose to have a baby.”
She says it’s one of the best things that could have happened to her.
“It definitely stopped the violence and gave me direction and something to love and focus on. I didn’t get to go to school so my education is where I left it off ... in grade 6.”
Her daughter was born five years later and she found it challenging when she reached her teenage years. She felt that it was important that her daughter learn from her experience and understand why she was so protective.
“When she was about 14 she started wanting to go out to parties with friends. I told her what had happened to me in a really gentle way. She was so dumbfounded and shocked,” she said.
Xan knows that one of her rapists died of cancer at a young age and she “felt that that was karma”.
She hopes that the other two men “have had miserable lives”.
“I just think ‘if you had a daughter, I hope you have a moment where you have regret and realise you got off without any punishment. If someone did that to your daughter, how would you feel?’”
She holds just as much resentment for the judge.
“I felt like he had the opportunity to do the right thing on my behalf. And he failed me,” she said.
She hopes that Project Xan is a success in Perth and would ultimately like to take the show around Australia.
“I’d also like to go to schools and educate the children ... I know how much [talking about it] helped my daughter when she was a teen.”
Despite everything Xan, who now works in Melbourne as a hairdresser, counts herself lucky.
“I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to have the platform to speak out and not everyone gets that opportunity … I feel as though in a way I’m blessed that I’m here today and I can help others.
“That’s really my main goal ... to let people out there know they’re not alone”.