After waiting more than a year and half for police to arrest the taxi driver who sexually assaulted her, a Melbourne woman was told she could have avoided it if she’d just chosen to sit in the back seat like “other women”.
The 20-year-old woman who now suffers from panic attacks and nightmares, and has had to give up her job working with disabled children, should have listened to her mother, according to the driver’s lawyer.
“She sat in the front seat… she was advised by her mum not to do that,” the barrister acting on behalf of driver Omar Hassan told the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, the Herald Sun reports.
“She can avoid this happening by doing what other women do… by sitting in the back seat.”
The young woman was attacked by the 42-year-old on her way home from a Ringwood night club, but a lack of police resources meant justice was delayed for 19 months.
The victim’s lawyer argued in favour of jail time because of the profound impact the assault has had on her life.
He said she now relies on her partner and father for transportation because she is too frightened to use taxis or public transport, according to the Age.
She also can’t work, study, drive or hold a proper conversation because of the anti-anxiety medication she’s on.
Magistrate Andrew Capell agreed the case struck “at the very heart of the trust people place in people who drive taxis” and didn’t want people to be deterred from using the service, but stopped short of handing down a prison sentence.
While he dismissed the idea the young woman’s seat choice influenced her fate, he said something must have come over Hassan to make him “take advantage” of his passenger and pointed to the Ethiopian-born drivers otherwise good character.
“He grew up in a climate of fear and persecution,” Capell said.
“He obviously worked incredibly hard without support others have.”
Hussan was found guilty of three charges of indecent assault and received a six month suspended sentence. It’s unlikely he will drive taxis again.