explainer

As two high-profile rape cases fall apart, there are two women in our thoughts today.

This post deals with sexual assault and might be triggering for some readers. 

Within the space of a week two juries of two high-profile alleged rape cases were discharged from court. In both instances the jurors considered and contemplated the evidence before concluding they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. In both instances, there is an alleged victim of sexual abuse, who now looks to an uncertain future where they will likely go through another trial all over again. 

In the case of former NRL player Jarryd Hayne, his alleged rape trial was discharged after midday on Monday, December 7. The jury of eight men and four women had been deliberating since 1pm on Thursday, but were unable to reach a unanimous decision or the alternative 11-1 verdict. 

“This decision has not been taken lightly,” the jury’s note, sent to Judge Peter Whitford Sc, said. “No amount of time and deliberation will be able to change this.” 

Hayne, 32, has pleaded not guilty to two charges of aggravated sexual assault recklessly inflicting actual bodily harm.

The jury in Jarryd Hayne's rape trial has been discharged. Image: Getty.

The Crown case against Hayne alleges he arrived drunk at a woman's house at about 9pm on September 30, 2018, after being at a two-day buck’s party. The former Parramatta Eels player paid a taxi $550 to drive him from Newcastle to Sydney, with a stop at the woman’s home in Fletcher on the way there, while the driver waited outside. Hayne stayed at the woman’s house for 46 minutes. 

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There, he allegedly committed two sex acts which caused two separate genital injuries to the woman before he left. 

“I knew she didn’t want to have sex,” Hayne said in court. “I thought I would just please her.”

The woman said in court that when Hayne tried to kiss and touch her, she told him “no” and “stop” - words he claims she did not say. The woman, now aged 28, says Hayne then allegedly pushed her face down into the pillow on her bed, ripped her pants off and attacked her. 

Hayne denies this, insisting he had her consent.

Both parties, however, agree the sex acts stopped when she began to bleed. A doctor who examined the woman’s vagina after the encounter "said it looks like a bite". Hayne says he did not bite her and his barrister instead suggested he "scratched her, by the look of it, with a fingernail".

Last week, the woman broke down while in the witness box. 

When the defence counsel pressed her on certain details, she said they were bringing up “irrelevant” information.

"You are making me look stupid and look like an idiot — he f***ing knows what I f***ing said," the woman said in court.

"No means f***ing no."

When the judge afforded her a break, she walked past Hayne on the way out and said "you f***ing piece of s**t".

Upon returning to give evidence, she apologised and the judge said he understood this was a stressful situation for anyone. 

In his closing remarks, Hayne’s lawyer said the encounter had evidently caused "a lot of pain, discomfort and grief" to the alleged victim. 

The woman had arguably been pushed to breaking point - a regular occurrence for alleged victims of sexual abuse subject to the interrogation of defence counsel. And now, with a hung jury, that breaking point is only stretched. 

We don’t know if what Jarryd Hayne did was rape. We do know his alleged victim is at breaking point. We do know that she will have to relive and retell her apparent trauma again. 

Exactly one week before the jury of Jarryd Hayne’s alleged rape trial was discharged, another high-profile sporting star’s alleged rape trial had been adjourned the same way. 

Jack de Belin 29, is accused of raping a 19-year-old woman alongside his co-accused, Callan Sinclair, 23. Both de Belin and Sinclair pleaded not guilty to the charge of aggravated sexual assault, which allegedly took place in the bedroom of a North Wollongong unit. 

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Jack de Belin is accused of raping a then 19-year-old woman. Image: AAP.

The woman says she was raped. The men say she consented.

The incident occurred in the early hours of December 9, 2018.  

That night, the two men met the woman in a Wollongong bar called Mr Crown. The woman then left with the men and said she thought the trio were going to another club before de Belin led the group to a North Wollongong unit "to charge his phone".

She initially told the men she'd wait outside for them before asking to use the bathroom, the court heard.

While on the toilet in a bedroom ensuite, the woman said de Belin walked in naked and began showering - causing her to exit quickly. She claims she was then met in the dark bedroom by a clothed Sinclair. The woman alleges de Belin then undid her top and shoved her on the bed, before he forced himself on top of her. It’s then alleged Sinclair joined in, and the pair switched positions a number of times. 

She says the men ignored her verbal protests. They say she consented. 

After the incident, the three caught an Uber back into Wollongong's CBD and de Belin handed her $50 "for the Uber and to keep your mouth shut," according to the woman. 

On the fourth day of facing the scrutiny from the barristers of de Belin and Sinclair - whose questions are designed to attack and undermine the alleged victim’s account - she broke down. 

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The woman repeatedly told de Belin’s barrister she could not remember specific details that preceded the alleged rape. 

“What happened in that unit, happened in that unit, and that’s what we’re here about,” she said.

She became so emotional during questioning that she needed a break from cross-examination.

When the woman returned, de Belin’s barrister showed footage of her dancing in the nightclub and claimed she was “looking very fondly into his eyes”.

"I don’t remember, it was two years ago," she responded. "I was dancing, I was having fun, I was a 19-year-old girl. I'm allowed to go out and have a dance."

Following a three-and-a-half week trial and nearly two days of deliberations, the Wollongong District Court jury of seven men and five women were unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the five charges against each man.

A retrial has been set for April next year. 

We don’t know if Jack de Belin and Callan Sinclair are guilty of rape. We do know their alleged victim broke down in court. We do know that she will now likely face cross-examination once more.  

The two women at the centre of the respective cases of Jarryd Hayne and Jack de Belin remain unnamed. We don’t know their names or faces. Unlike their alleged abusers, we don’t know their stories or their careers.

We don’t know what they’ve put on hold to go to court for their alleged rapes. But we do know that they believe they were raped. We do know they both broke down during their respective cross-examinations. We know they are putting their mental health on the line because they believe they deserve justice. We know their judicial journeys are now far from over.

There are two women in our thoughts today. 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature image: AAP. 


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