A police officer brought up records of a woman’s reported sexual assault in an effort to embarass her after she was apprehended at Friday’s National Day of Action protest.
Maddy, 27, had attended Friday’s protest in solidarity with students facing higher degree fees and withdrawn HECS funding if they fail classes.
“I know how difficult university is when you’re dealing with mental health issues. You’re not thinking about the withdrawal date so you don’t fail, you’re thinking about how you can get help. I feel terrible that a lot of my friends are going to be facing this policy.”
Maddy says that prior to the rally’s commence, she had been filming the riot squad arriving on campus. One police officer approached her and told her that if he saw her in the area breaching the Public Health Order again he would issue a fine. “I just pretended I couldn’t hear him,” she says.
Filming police officers in NSW is not a crime. The NSW Police’s own Media Policy acknowledges that members of the public have the right to record police officers in public spaces. Officers who physically attempt to stop people from filming may be prosecuted for assault.
Maddy says that after the rally commenced, and police began to apprehend protestors, the same police officer approached her saying “I told you that if I saw you in this area again I’d apprehend you.”
At this point, she was on Eastern Avenue with other protesters, as well as students and staff making their way to classes.
“I was not really aware of my surroundings because I was distracted by [my friend] getting arrested,” Maddy says
“I saw him approaching me and I started to run away. Two cops ended up getting me and grabbed me with such force that I dropped my phone and other belongings.”
Police did not give her a chance to collect her belongings. A friend was lucky enough to find her phone, from which she had been live streaming the arrests.
Maddy was left with bruises on her arm where officers had grabbed her.
“They dragged me away from the other protesters,” she says. “All the other arrests had witnesses, but no one had even realised that I’d disappeared. I was so scared.”
The officers then began questioning her, asking her whether she’d had previous dealings with the police. Maddy had never been apprehended by police before, and told them no.
“The officer conducted a check on me, he was speaking with someone over the radio about it. Then said to me in a really smug way: ‘You have dealt with the police as a sexual assault victim’.”
“He said it with this kind of smile, like he had caught me in a lie.”
“I had come to the police years ago with my story, and they had never helped me. Nothing ever came from it. I didn’t even know there would be records of it.”
“I was just really shocked. I froze. I wish I’d said something.”
“I’m still so shaken up about it,” she says. “I can still picture his smirk when he told me that he knew about my sexual assault.”
Maddy was ultimately not charged, and was released by police with a $1000 fine for failing to comply with Public Health Order No 4.
Honi Soit reported on Friday that at least 10 attendees had been issued with similar fines.
A GoFundMe page created yesterday fundraising for the fines issued at Friday’s protest has already raised more than $12,000.
A NSW Police spokesperson confirmed that several protesters had been issued with fines on Friday, but would not comment further on the matter. NSW Police declined to comment when asked whether any policies provided guidelines to officers about sensitive treatment of sexual assault survivors.