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21yo Georgia was on her way to a music festival when she was made to strip naked and squat.

When Georgia and her friends were driving along the Murray River near the border of New South Wales and Victoria, they didn’t expect to come across an army of police.

The group of friends, who were heading to music festival Strawberry Fields, were still a few kilometres away from the festival in Tocumwal when they came across the police operation.

“This operation was huge,” Georgia, now 25, who attended the festival in 2015, told Mamamia.

“It honestly looked like a border patrol operation. There were around 30 cops, [drug] buses, and sniffer dogs.

Immediately, Georgia and her friends were flagged down by police.

After having their identification checked, the group exited the vehicle as it was “searched from top to bottom” by police.

“As soon as we got out, they started going through everything – even really small stuff, like my friend’s little purse and they put [sniffer] dogs through the car as well,” Georgia said.

Although the police didn’t find any drugs – or any other contraband – in the vehicle, Georgia was given a drug test, while her friend Annabelle was taken to a tent to be strip searched.

“They don’t have to get a sniffer dog to do a drug test,” she said.

“As soon as we got out of the car, they treated us with absolute suspicion, they were just convinced we had stuff on us. And we didn’t – and I mean that, we really didn’t. I know a lot of people going into these [music festivals] do have drugs, but we didn’t.”

After taking a drug test, a sniffer dog sat down at Georgia’s feet.

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“They [the police] almost look gleeful – like ‘gotcha’,” she recalled.

“[They said] ‘the dog has sat at your feet and that means we are going to have to carry out a strip search on you,'” she added.

“They took us to a tent set up in this police embankment. I was taken to a tent and I was searched by a female officer.

“You go in the tent, and they tell you take off all of your clothes – one by one. They look through all your clothes as you’re taking them off. Even your underwear and your bra. They make you untie your hair and ruffle that out. They look inside your mouth. Then there’s the best part – when you’re fully naked in front of a complete stranger, they make you squat. It’s completely degrading.

“I was naked in a tent in outback Victoria, and it was really hot and dusty. You get some privacy, but you still feel violated in a tent in the middle of nowhere in front of a stranger.”

After the police failed to find drugs or contraband on Georgia or her two friends, they were let go. But as they continued on their way to the festival, they all felt sick to their stomachs.

“We were just so shocked because we were treated like criminals and we had done nothing wrong,” Georgia said.

“I understand that they wanted to search the car for drugs or other contraband but we were just really outraged. We just couldn’t believe that the government had the power to do that to us. It was just pure shock and later, anger.”

After her experience, Georgia now has a strong stance on strip searches.

“I think it’s a form of state-sanctioned sexual assault perpetrated against individuals as a punitive measure for going to festivals and having fun,” she said.

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“There’s ample evidence to support the fact that this does not work,” she added.

“It’s horribly, horribly violating. I’ve never been sexually assaulted but for me, one of the first things that flashed through my mind was imagine if you had been sexually abused and this was happening to you. It could traumatise you, it could trigger you. I just think it’s inhumane and barbaric and backwards and there’s no justification for doing it, because it does not work.”

Earlier this week, new research commissioned by Redfern Legal Centre found that there has been an almost 20-fold increase in strip searches (excluding strip searches in police stations) in NSW in the last 12 years.

The number of searches has increased from 277 times in the 12 months up until 30 November 2006, to 5,483 strip searches in 2018.

The study also found that between 2014-2015 and 2017-2018, strip searches conducted outside of police stations found nothing more than 60 per cent of the time.

Under law, strip searches are only meant to be conducted as a last resort, on reasonable grounds, when circumstances are deemed to be serious and/or urgent.

*Georgia does not wish to disclose her last name but she is known to Mamamia. A stock image has been used to represent Georgia.

What do you think about the increase in strip searches in New South Wales? Let us know in the comments.


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