true crime

Cathy had finally escaped her abusive relationship, but then a police officer arrived.

This story discusses domestic abuse and rape. 

At just 25 years old, Cathy Oddie needed help. She’d finally escaped an abusive relationship - one that saw her held at gunpoint - but her ex partner was stalking her. Abusive phone calls, incessant messages; he even slashed her clothes as they hung on the line. 

Cathy had long-held aspirations to become a police officer, so had some contacts within the force. She called seeking help, and was referred to another officer, a trusted friend of the man she'd called. He was in a leadership position so she felt comfortable. Her experience reporting domestic violence to local police hadn’t been good, so she was pleased to have a more senior contact looking after her case. 

“I attended the station and made a report and statement about the damaged clothes, and the stalking and harassment I was experiencing from my ex-partner,” Cathy told Mamamia

A couple of days later, the officer told Cathy he’d be coming to her home. He needed to collect the damaged clothes as evidence, he said. He also had to personally view the location of where the offence had taken place. 

“This seemed like a normal police investigation process so I didn't question it,” shares Cathy. 

He arrived in the early evening. He was in uniform, on-duty and drove a marked police vehicle. He was alone.

“After I showed him around my home and provided him a bag containing the clothes damaged by my abusive ex-partner, the officer asked if I could accompany him back to the police station to complete some further paperwork with him."


Again, Cathy didn’t question it. He was a police officer. She trusted him.

“I remember sitting in the front passenger seat of the police car with him and we had only driven approximately 700 metres when he pulled over adjacent to a local pub and said, ‘I'm about to knock-off soon, we can actually probably finish doing all the paperwork we need to do back at your place. Would you mind if I just pop into the bottle shop here and grab a six-pack of beer?’."

Cathy was surprised, but agreed. “I felt quite taken aback that he would purchase alcohol whilst on duty with me in the vehicle. However, as he was friends with the officer I knew, I thought this is why he was acting in a more informal manner with me.”

When they returned to Cathy's unit, he sat down on a couch. Cathy sat on another one. He asked if she was ok, and if he could make himself “more comfortable”. 

“I wasn't sure what he meant, but said ‘sure’. He then untucked his shirt from his pants and removed his work belt containing his gun and placed it on the floor directly in my line of sight. He then started talking about how he found me attractive and wanted to have sex with me.”

At this point, Cathy went into a state of shock. She froze. At the same time, the officer allegedly became increasingly persistent in telling Cathy what he wanted to do to her.

“I wasn't responding verbally at all, I just shut down as I was feeling really scared.” 


Then, there was his gun, carefully placed on the living room floor. 

“He kept making me aware of his gun and used this in a coercive, threatening manner. This was particularly cruel as he was using his knowledge of the fact that my abusive ex-partner had held me hostage at gunpoint and severely assaulted me only two years earlier. 

“The officer pulled me up off the sofa, pushed me into my bedroom and raped me multiple times before leaving my home.”

To survive, Cathy went into a state of disassociation. Over the next 12 months, the officer allegedly returned to her home multiple times. 

Cathy Oddie today. Picture: Supplied 


The impact of police perpetrated abuse.

The first time Cathy was allegedly raped, she still had hopes of becoming a police officer herself. But she was scared. Scared that if she spoke out about what had happened, no one would believe her. And her dream career would be just that. A dream. Over time, that’s exactly what it became. 

“The thought of joining a police force which included him was too difficult for me. At the time this was happening I felt too scared to report him as I feared the retaliation I might face from him or his colleagues,” she says. 

Cathy also has complex post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. 

“It has made it very difficult for me to trust reporting any crimes perpetrated against me to police officers. It has contributed to me finding it very hard to trust men in general. It made me feel very unsafe in my own home and my bed became a site of trauma that constantly triggered me. It has impacted my professional and academic journey ever since as due to the trauma I have often needed time off to recover from episodes of PTSD etc.”

Speaking out.

After 18 years of silence, Cathy reported her assault to police. 


“I thought, ‘I have to get justice for my 25-year-old self, who was way too scared to do anything about it’.”

To her relief, Cathy received extensive support from Victoria Police, and the officer was subsequently arrested. A brief of evidence was prepared and sent to the Office of Public Prosecutions, but the following year, Cathy was told they would not be pursuing criminal charges due to the consent laws that were in place at the time of the offence. 

“Under current laws, consent cannot exist where there is a person in a position of trust and authority over you and where there’s use of threats and coercion," says Cathy. 

“If the consent laws then were what they are now, this police officer would have had to face criminal prosecution as there is no way consent could have existed.”

The officer received an official internal disciplinary charge of disgraceful conduct. An internal investigation commenced, and the officer was suspended with pay. After delaying the processes over months via continued adjournments, he eventually resigned before its completion. 

“His official status is, he’s resigned under investigation. He’ll never be able to work for another police force or in a public service role.”

Cathy says it's important society understands that people in positions of authority such as police officers, can also be perpetrators of domestic abuse and sexual violence.

“They need to be held accountable for their actions despite their status in the community,” she says. 


An invisible problem.

Michelle* and her two children suffered extreme domestic abuse at the hands of her police officer husband. She reported the abuse, and developed an escape and safety plan. That plan was leaked to her husband by his police colleagues, with catastrophic consequences. As a result, Michelle’s ex was convicted of serious, violent and protracted family violence offending. But this outcome is rare. 

“I discovered he was the only Victoria Police member convicted of family violence offending in more than five years,” says Michelle, who now runs the Officer Involved Domestic Violence (OIDV) Support Group

“I was told by a refuge that police perpetrators are not uncommon; that they can be amongst the worst offenders because they know the system, how to weaponise it and avoid accountability; and that police perpetrators believe they can offend with impunity.

“The officers involved in leaking my escape plan, attempting to cover up my ex’s offending and accusing me of making up my allegations or remaining silent when others did the same - in the main – are all still members of Victoria Police.”

Thanks to OIDV, which focuses on peer support and validation, along with evidence gathering and advocacy for change, more police perpetrators are being charged or pushed out of the police force. 

“But until those who protect them and the bystanders in the force are held to account, Victoria Police’s culture of impunity won’t change when it comes to predators in the ranks,” says Michelle. 


“Police perpetrators manipulate their colleagues, courts and the system like no other – because of their knowledge of the system and their connections; and they often abuse differently to other perpetrators. Combined, all of that is incredible isolating.  

“That’s why solidarity and peer validation from the victims of other cops is so important – it helps victims feel and know that they are not alone or crazy. 

“We understand the systems abuse and the police-perp-playbook. We can – as I did with Cathy – let victims know what a police-perpetrator is likely to do next in terms of playing the system and delaying things.”

The importance of support .

Through the group, Michelle has been contacted by more than 300 victim-survivors of police perpetrated abuse, seeking support. Their biggest fear, says Michelle, is not being believed. 

“I think it’s so important that if you are going through an investigation like this have consistent support,” says Cathy.  

“These processes aren’t quick, they’re really hard. I found over the last 18 months, it’s been a four pronged thing - having the support through Victoria Police, my Centre Against Sexual Assault counsellor, the peer support through the OIDV support group, and then it’s also the support from broader friends and family."

Cathy says police support – specifically through the Sexual Offences and Family Violence Unit (SOFVU), established following an independent review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment within Victoria Police, undertaken between 2014 and 2019 – was critical. 


“I had one of the detective senior sergeants say to me, ‘we believe you’. Hearing those words, I just broke down. Previously, I had never felt they'd taken me seriously, even when I reported the most horrific things.”

What needs to change. 

While SOFVU has been a step in the right direction, it's limited to Victoria. "Their level of investigation and witness support is incredible. But support shouldn’t be a postcode lottery,” says Cathy. 

“We need a standardised approach. The Victorian SOFVU model, which has been proven to be successful, needs to be extend across all police forces in Australia."

Cathy believes an independent police oversight authority, such as a police ombudsman, is also required. 

“There also needs to be changes to the current internal disciplinary processes, as the current processes are allowing police perpetrators to manipulate the system for their own financial gain and to further traumatise their victims.

“There needs to be an official redress/compensation scheme for victims of police perpetrated abuse, and independent peer-support groups for victims of police perpetrated abuse such as the OIDV support group need funding to assist in the vital work they do in support victim-survivors.

Although her perpetrator has refused to read or view it, Cathy has made her powerful Victim Impact Statement public. You can view it here.


Feature image: Supplied 

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.