Aussie police save teen rape victim from arranged marriage

 

Warning: Confronting.

A Sydney schoolgirl has been rescued from an arranged marriage in Lebanon as she faced death for defying her family, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

In a shocking twist, the 15-year-old was banished to Beirut to marry her cousin because her parents believed she was no longer "pure" after she was raped.

NSW and federal police were in a race against time to get her home to Australia and safety after the brave teenager told her uncle she would never marry his son and he threatened to shoot her dead.

The 40-year-old uncle, her father's brother, then spent time in a Lebanese jail cell for drugging the girl and forcing her to have sex.

"The uncle said okay, if you want nothing to do with my son, you can come into my bed," Detective Senior Constable Tara Chapman told The Daily Telegraph.

"She said she was terrified he was going to shoot her and no-one would know where she was.

"She said he's 40 years old and he's smelly and sweaty and all she could do was scream."

The western Sydney schoolgirl's ordeal can now be told after two charges of aggravated sexual assault were dropped in the District Court against the neighbour she alleged raped her in November 2017, sparking her 18 months of hell.

She cannot be identified but said she is happy to let Det Chapman tell her story.

"She wants to stay positive," Det Chapman said.

"The hand she has been dealt is horrendous and I feel for her.

"But she is a very, very strong girl. She kept getting hit and coming back and standing back up."

Australian Federal Police figures show in the last financial year, 61 cases of forced marriage were referred to them, compared to just 11 four years ago. It is estimated that just one in four cases are being detected.

Detective Senior Constable Tara Chapman helped the girl get out of Lebanon and back to Australia. Picture: John Grainger
Detective Senior Constable Tara Chapman helped the girl get out of Lebanon and back to Australia. Picture: John Grainger

The girl's case was investigated at one stage as a forced marriage but dropped because it was an "arranged" marriage and the girl did not want to see her parents in trouble.

When Det Chapman from the NSW Police Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad first met the girl in November 2017, it was in a police station.

She was 14, quiet, wearing a hijab over her jeans and accompanied by her Lebanese-born parents who believed it was their daughter's fault she had been sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old neighbour after getting into his car.

"I got her to leave the room and I remember telling her mum and dad in no uncertain terms that it was not her fault," Det Chapman said.

"I told them that she got into the car but he decided to do the bad things and she didn't want it to happen … it was like talking to a stone wall."

The police were called in after the girl truanted from school to visit a doctor and see if she was pregnant and if she was still a virgin.

"There is no medical way that you can tell whether anyone is a virgin or not," Det Chapman said.

"It was ridiculously important to her family and her culture that she was not 'pure' as they put it.

"Her dad said to her, you can't get married in Australia because you are not a virgin so we are going to send you overseas."

The girl was sent to Lebanon, where she says her uncle drugged and raped her. Picture: Liam Kidston
The girl was sent to Lebanon, where she says her uncle drugged and raped her. Picture: Liam Kidston

Det Chapman impressed on the girl that she was her "personal police officer", as she does with all the child sex cases she investigates, and that the girl could call her whenever she wanted. But her mother took her phone from her and the officer had to communicate via the mother.

The girl first ran away on Christmas Eve 2017, telling police who found her: "My parents are going to send me to Lebanon into an arranged marriage and I don't want to go."

She ran away twice more, spending nights in a park, in a car and with friends.

On February 25, 2018, Family and Community Services found emergency housing for the girl and two friends but her dad called one of the friends and offered her money to trick the girl and get her to a police station where he was waiting.

Two days later, the girl and her older sister, then 17, were put on Emirates flight EK415 - which was when the AFP alerted Det Chapman because she was on a "child at risk" alert.

Det Chapman and the AFP got officers to meet her in Dubai but the girl did not come out of transit and went straight on to a flight to Beirut.

The teenage girl and her sister were sent on an Emirates flight from Sydney to Lebanon their parents. Picture: AAP/Jordan Shields
The teenage girl and her sister were sent on an Emirates flight from Sydney to Lebanon their parents. Picture: AAP/Jordan Shields

It was March 31 before anyone heard from her again. She logged on to Instagram after getting access to her uncle's phone.

A close friend alerted Det Chapman as she had the girl on the phone and asked the officer: "What do you want me to tell her?"

The officer passed on advice including phone numbers, details of a website for child brides and told her to contact the Australian Consulate.

"Say hi from me and tell her to be brave and come home," Det Chapman texted, followed by two thumbs-up emojis, trying to keep her positive.

In the last financial year, there were 61 cases of forced marriages referred to AFP. Picture: iStock
In the last financial year, there were 61 cases of forced marriages referred to AFP. Picture: iStock

The girl had been in deep trouble.

Despite telling her uncle she was not going to marry her cousin, the uncle forced the couple to sit in a room to "talk". The cousin spoke only local, thick Arabic and the girl spoke a little "Australian Arabic". The cousin brought flowers as he tried to "court" her and the uncle told her she was just being silly.

As she remained defiant, the uncle ordered his wife to move into the childrens' room because the girl "need to sleep in my room". When he tried to kiss her, she turned her face away. So he drugged her.

Every night he forced her to take a sedative and a morning after pill to avoid pregnancy.

"I felt paralysed, I was conscious but I couldn't move," the girl told Det Chapman.

Every morning she was bleeding and in such pain that she just lay on the bed.

Her uncle told her that if she told her sister or anyone what was happening, he would shoot her.

"She said she understood he would kill her," Det Chapman said.

After days of hell, the girl told her sister while they were alone in the house. The sister grabbed some clothes, stuffed them in her handbag and the sisters fled. They tracked down their aunt - their father's sister - and she believed them when the girl showed her two of the pills.

The aunt accompanied the girls to a police station where the girl was medically examined and the uncle arrested.

The aunt called the girl's mum back in western Sydney who called Det Chapman saying: "I need to get her home."

 

 

With the uncle threatening to kill her, the AFP arranged for emergency flights, got the sisters' passports back from the local police who had seized them and the girls got back to Sydney on April 7 where their parents met them at the airport - and took the girl straight to their GP for an examination to check again if she was "pure".

But it did not stop the parents from trying to marry the girl off again, this time to a local man, as her father sent money to Lebanon to pay for lawyers for his brother.

Det Chapman saw the photograph the girl posted to Instagram showing the "happy" couple engaged.

"I called her and said what are you doing? You don't have to get married," Det Chapman said.

The engagement was called off when her future mother-in-law insisted the girl wear a hijab, an item of clothing she had rejected as she rebelled against her parents.

The girl then struggled to give evidence in her neighbour's trial in the District Court and last month the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the charges.

Det Chapman said she is so proud of the girl who is now studying at TAFE and lives on and off with her parents.

"She said that her mum hates her uncle and supports her, and her dad is somewhat believing," the officer said.

"She is a lovely girl, it breaks my heart that she has no one to support her."



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