Sunday, May 22, 2016

South Korea: the country where the rape of foreign women is ignored

When Australian Airdre Mattner was drugged and raped while on vacation, she had no idea that her ordeal had only just begun. The 25-year-old realized that the only way to find justice in South Korea was to run her own campaign. In doing so, she exposed a culture where violence against women, particularly foreigners, is often accepted. Her fight has led her to other victims of sex attacks who have been ignored by the authorities to tell their stories. Airdre, who teaches English in Japan, was visiting Seoul with her boyfriend and a friend in September 2015, and decided to stay on a few days alone. Like many Australians, she believed that the South Korean capital was safe, and joined a pub crawl advertised on Facebook to get to know the city better. After just three drinks, things went hazy and she found herself in a taxi with a stranger, she wrote on her GoFundMe page, which has raised almost A$18,000. She was violently sick, but managed to plead with the driver to take her to her hostel, showing him the address on her phone. He ignored her. "The next thing I recall is being on a bed in a hotel room," she said. "The man was on top of me. I struggled and tried to push him away but was again too heavily drugged to manage anything. I woke up the next morning completely naked. All my money was gone. My clothes and belongings were torn and strewn across the room." CCTV footage shows three men were involved in the attack. After they half-carried her into the motel, in a place called "Hookers Hill", one spent an hour in the room with Airdre before the next man went in. The young Australian enlisted the help of her hostel manager and a friend and went to the police station. She endured ten hours of invasive treatments, tests and questions, still in shock and feeling the effects of the drugs. She was asked what she was wearing and it was repeatedly insinuated that she was drunk. Later, she discovered that the authorities had not followed proper rape procedures and had not even obtained DNA evidence. When Airdre received a friend request from her rapist on Facebook, she took screenshots and sent them to the police, but was told that couldn't be the perpetrator because he wasn't in the country. Eventually, she was forced to launch her own investigation, and discovered that the report had been falsified. "Her treatment by police was as traumatic as the night before," 60 Minutes reporter Alison Langdon said. "There's a culture of victim-blaming, if you go out and drink or dance. They have this culture where they don't take sex crime seriously. When the victim and perpetrator are not South Korean, police care even less." Western women are even known as "white whores" in some circles, added Langdon. After an international outcry when Airdre went public, police were forced to respond, and a Nigerian man was arrested for her rape. But he's being prosecuted for sexual harassment rather than rape or even assault, because she was unconscious and therefore cannot prove she didn't consent, says Langdon. Airdre's case has brought to light South Korea's poor record on sex crime. In March 2016, the country made numerous amendments to outdated laws, leading to a spike in sex crime reporting, arrests and prosecutions. Reports of sexual assaults against foreigners have risen 40% in South Korea since 2008, and attacks on foreign women in neighboring Japan are on the rise, too. Less than 10% of rapes in South Korea are reported, less than 2% go to trial, and only around 10% of those found guilty face jail-time, said Langdon. Most hospitals don't have rape kits and there are even websites where people can live stream rapes of unconscious women, and ask to join in. South Korea may be a safe country when it comes to murder and robbery, but if you're a visiting woman, it's incredibly dangerous.

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