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Survivor of gang rape wins compensation for herself and 24,000 others.

UPDATE – NSW Government reverses compensation decision for Katrina Keshishian.

Trigger warning: This post deals with sexual assault and may be upsetting for some readers.

In a win for people power, 24,000 people will now receive the full amount of victims of crime compensation after NSW Premier Mike Baird pledged to reverse a decision to cut compensation, admitting it was a “mistake”.

Gang rape survivor Katrina Keshishian last year appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 program explaining how her victim’s compensation payout was slashed after the NSW government retrospectively changed compensation awards.

Since then, Katrina, 26, has been using a Change.org petition to draw attention to her cause – securing the support of 130,000 people. Last week, Katrina succeeded in making victim’s compensation an election issue, with Labor pledging to reverse cuts to the victims of violence.

And now she has changed the government’s mind.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that the Premier has finally listened and done the right thing,” said Katrina.

“This is a truly people-powered win…I can’t thank enough the 130,000 people who backed my change.org petition and have been standing with me these past months to fight this unfair policy.”

Katrina’s success will help over 24,000 people who are survivors of family violence and sexual assault, as well as the families of homicide victims.

Katrina says, “that pain is finally coming to an end now and I’m relieved. Myself and many other victims will be able to turn a corner and get on with our recovery with the support we need.”

The NSW woman was 20 when she was raped by two men in 2008, and waited six years for her claim to be approved by the NSW government. During that time, the law was changed, and her potential payout sum was slashed from up to $50,000 to $15,000.

Previously, Mamamia wrote:

By SHAUNA ANDERSON

It was a night out for a 20-year-old woman with her family. A few drinks, a meal and a chance meeting with friendly young guy who she seemed to have a lot in common with.

It was easy to accept his invitation to continue the night at a nightclub. She was 20 years old and it was Saturday night.

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Who wouldn’t?

It was only when the car he was driving – accompanied by two of his friends seemed to have been travelling for a substantial time that she became uneasy. Nervous.

And when they arrived at the banks of a river 25km away she knew it wasn’t the plan.

“Stay and have a few beers on the river bank” the young men convinced her.

She admits she had consensual sex with the nice young man she had met.

“I had no reason to be in fear of the man, I just was having a good time.”

St Mary’s Leagues Club where Katrina met the young man.

But for Katrina Keshishian what happened next was to change the course of her life indelibly.

“And after we finished, I opened my eyes and his friends were standing behind him and he turned around to his friends and said ‘sharing’s caring, get down here’. That’s when the other two took turns at raping me.”

“They just got on top of me and spread my legs apart and one of them was holding the top part of my body down so that I couldn’t get up and they just had sex with me.”

The young woman – now aged 26- gave a harrowing account of her rape on last night’s 7.30 on the ABC.

After raping her the men put Katrina back in the car and drove her to the Sydney suburb of St Mary’s where they had first met.

They dumped her at a petrol station and fled.

The terrified young woman alerted the attendant who called police.

Katrina –who says she was a happy-go-lucky person six years ago – was taken to hospital.

Katrina in 2008. “I was a happy-go-lucky person”.

“I had to sit around for hours with their DNA inside me. It was horrible. I just wanted to have a shower.”

Two of the men who had a prior conviction were arrested, charged with rape and were held on remand.

The rape had shattered her both physically and mentally, even now.

“ I can hear them laughing, in my dreams, every night, laughing at me.” She told 7.30.

At the time she could not imagine going through court so fearing the humiliation of cross-examination she pulled out.

From 7.30:

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Even though the men weren’t convicted, Katrina applied, as is her right, for victim’s compensation.

KATRINA KESHISHIAN: My rape was classified as a category three sexual assault because there were two or more offenders, so I was meant to receive a sum anywhere between $25,000 to $50,000.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: After waiting six years, finally, in June, Katrina Keshishian’s claim was approved.

It was what Katrina needed to get her life back in order.

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But it wasn’t as she expected. Her payout had been slashed from up to $50,000 to $15,000.

The New South Wales Government had retrospectively changed compensation awards.

“I’ve paid through the nose for psychological help to recover but because the government still hasn’t paid my victims of crime compensation – 6 years since being raped – it’s meant I’ve been in debt and had to borrow money from friends and family just to get help,” she said.

News report at the time
Katrina says the toll the rape has taken on her life is horrific.

Katrina told 7.30 that it was not fair – and that she was not the only one going through it.

7.30 reports that the NSW Government changes has meant 24,000 victims of crime stood have had their compensation cut and that many are women survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well as people who have been physically or sexually abused as children.

NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard told 7.30 while rapes like Katrina’s are awful the government had to save money.

“At the end of the day we also have to make sure that we’re providing a scheme, a system, that’s sustainable, financially, for the State.”

Katrina did not allow her name to be released at the time of her rape but she says now she is speaking about her ordeal in order to recover.

She has started a petition at Change.org to fight for her compensation.

“I don’t understand why they’re doing this to me. I can’t fully move on because the government won’t finalise my case. Now I just want this to all be over, to have closure on this and be able to get the ongoing help I need to recover. “ She writes.

The petition that now has over 62,000 signatures begs for help.

“  I can’t even describe how horrific being gang-raped was – it will haunt me forever, but what’s even worse is the toll it’s taken on my life – I’m broke, I’ve had to pay huge amounts of money to get treatment.”

Katrina’s letter to Mike Baird

For Katrina coming forward has been tough, but she is overwhelmed by the support and determined to get her life back.

“This rape, this gang rape ruined my life. They took away something from me something that wasn’t theirs. It’s mine to give, not theirs. “

You can sign Katrina’s petition here.

For support 24/7, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). 

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