They say a lot can happen in one year.
This time last year, right now, I had just started a pub-crawl in Seoul, South Korea.
Some time after midnight, I was drugged, abducted and delivered to two men who were ready and waiting.
At exactly 2:22am, these two Nigerian men entered a back-alley motel in Itaewon and rented a motel room. By 2:31am they had returned, this time, taking me with them.
CCTV footage shows they took turns in the room with me. When I awoke, naked, my things strewn across the room, my dress ripped and my money gone, I remembered only one of the men.
When I reported that I had been drugged and raped, to a designated one-stop centre who were supposed to specialise in sexual crimes, I was made to feel like I was the criminal.
There was only one supervisor on duty that night. She was already busy with another victim of sexual assault. A female police officer took on her role.
Over the course of the next 12 hours, I was sent back and forward between the hospital and police sections of the building. There was a translator present but they mostly refused to tell her what was happening. I didn’t speak Korean so I had no idea either.
When questioned by the same female police officer, I was asked incessantly about how much alcohol I usually consumed, and how much I had consumed that night. It was suggested that because my memories were hazy due to being drugged that the rape probably never even occurred.
In the weeks and months to come, the police continued to severely compromise my case through a lack of evidence collection and a lack of investigation.
My requests for information and my medical records and the results of tests and examinations were ignored for almost a month.
After engaging the embassy and providing a power of attorney, I was finally able to obtain these. There was essential paperwork which was supposed to have been completed by staff on the day, detailing the tests they did and documenting evidence and other notes surrounding the case. It was not filled out until almost a month later. When it was finally filled out, many pages had been left blank. Sections which were specified as being essential had been skipped. Doctors wrote on this formal documentation: “She told that she was drunken and lost her consciousness after large amount of alcohol ingestion with some one”.
When questioned about this months later, the hospital blamed the police, saying the police officer responsible did not tell them that I had been drugged or raped.
The police in turn blamed the hospital.
The questions which were supposed to have been asked of me in the formal rape kit documentation were never asked despite the presence of the translator. Evidence was never collected from my hair, mouth, nails or clothes. NO PREVENTATIVE MEDICATION was
given for HIV, Hep B, Hep C or any other infection.
While CCTV footage was obtained from the motel I was taken to, police failed to obtain footage of the bar where I was drugged and abducted from. First they claimed that I had never told them about any bars in my statement. When the evidence in the form of my statement transcript was provided to them, they finally contacted the pub crawl organiser and bar. More than 6 months too late. The footage was lost.
Despite telling police exactly who I believed had raped me, after the man tried to add me on Facebook the day after (and matched the exact description I had already given police), police covered for the man and stated that he was not in the country at the time. This was a complete lie. They had already checked immigration records and knew for sure that the dates of his travel correlated exactly with the offence. They continued to maintain this lie until confronted in person. They then claimed it was an “error in translation”, but admitted that they had never bothered to even question the man before he left the country.
On the 18th of January, after being told by the consulate that there were “new developments in my case”, this was ripped away from me when it turned out the “developments” were that police had closed my case. They marked it as unsolved.
It was then that I went public, taking matters into my own hands after I had been completely and utterly failed by the authorities. I started a Gofundme campaign. I believed this was the best way to try to spread awareness of the huge issues surrounding the prevalence of sexual related crimes in South Korea and the horrendous way they were being dealt with, as well as raise money for my legal, medical and recovery related expenses.
In response to my campaign, the police station responsible for my case (despite never being named) outed themselves and turned the blame onto myself.
They organised for a press release (which they later admitted was entirely to protect their reputations) and claimed that I never remembered where or when I had been raped (a total lie). They also claimed that black male that I identified from my Facebook was an entrepenour from Nigeria who visited to attend a conference in Busan. They went to the media with this information despite lying multiple times and claiming he was never in the country.
They stated they had collected DNA evidence. They had never told myself or the embassy this. I had to find out via this news article.
Days later, police then attempted to harass me into viewing a post they had made via posting comments on the Gofundme page. The post was addressed to me, but posted publicly on their police station’s Facebook page. In it, among other things, they suggested that I was a drug user – “you stated that someone got you drugs and took you to an anonymous hotel”. They also stated that I had left the country giving them no way of contacting me or keeping me informed. This was also a complete lie. Police later admitted this Facebook post was not intended for me at all, but was solely to try to salvage their reputation despite the fact that it was them who named and outed themselves as the police station involved.
Around a week later, after enormous backlash from the public and media, the police posted again on their Facebook page. This time it was an apology for “unintended troubles”. They later admitted that this apology was not meant for me whatsoever, but only for the public, stating it was an attempt to “minimize negative publicity” towards themselves. They deleted their original post.
On the 20th of April, out of the blue, the police station emailed me screenshots from the CCTV footage.
The attached photographs, showing me pictured with not one but two men, were not attached separately but were sent in the body of the email. I had no choice but to see them when I opened the email, causing a severe panic attack and resulting in me having to be removed from work.
They stated that they had arrested both men. This was another lie. When questioned in person, they stated this was ANOTHER error in translation.
I flew back to Korea and spent seven hours meeting with police accompanied by my lawyer and embassy officials. During these meetings, I was laughed at, often completely ignored, blamed, mocked and ridiculed. Police yawned, left without warning, appeared to fall asleep and took phone calls throughout the meeting.
They placed blame not only on myself but also on the media, the embassy, the hospital and their own translator. They refused to accept any responsibility for any of their misconduct, negligence or the damage they had caused me, and they refused to apologise for anything they had done.
To this day, only one of the men has been arrested. He is being charged with semi sexual molestation due to lack of evidence. The other man walks free, having still not even been questioned.
Just recently, when the accused was supposed to have been formally convicted and sentenced, the most vital piece of evidence (the DNA report) appeared to have been lost. Court proceedings halted, despite the fact that the accused had already pleaded guilty. It turned out that this central piece of evidence had not been submitted to the court. My lawyer stated that this was unprecedented and “absurd”.
One year on, today, and this man is still not in jail yet. It appears there are at least one or two court hearings yet before I find out how much, if any, jail time he will even get. This is due to the constant stream of “lost evidence” and other ridiculous, completely avoidable complications in the court process.
I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One year on and I am still taking three kinds of medication – medication to help me sleep, because I have insomnia; anti-depressants treat my depression, and valium for anxiety because I still experience frequent panic attacks. These anxiety driven panic attacks are triggered mostly by seeing black men. I also have panic attacks if a man I do not know comes too close to me. It affects my life every day. I have had to either be removed from my school (my workplace), or had to go to the school nurse so I could be helped to calm down after panic attacks. One day when there was severe weather and the train I was on stopped working, a man from the Board of Education was sent by my supervisor in a company car to pick me up from the station and drop me at school, however I had a panic attack and could not get in the car with him as I was too scared and did not know him. M PTSD puts my job and relationships with people around me at risk. Most nights, unless I pass out from exhaustion, I have trouble sleeping. I have trouble falling asleep, because my body has been conditioned to fight unconsciousness as it is associates it with being raped. I usually take sleeping tablets in order to be able to fall asleep; however I still have constant nightmares and hallucinations. I frequently wake up during the night and see dark figures in my room. I have to get up, turn all the lights in the house on, check everywhere to make sure nobody is there, and then try to go back to sleep. I then have to try to work the next day while being extremely tired. I have fallen asleep at work due to not having slept the night before. I constantly feel exhausted.
Every day I struggle with depression. Feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, anger and overwhelming sadness are constant and debilitating. I cannot get through one day without wondering what my life would be like if this had not happened to me. I fight hard against wanting to give up on everything. I would frequently cancel organized events or scheduled catch ups with friends, and go for weeks without even going shopping for food because I could only manage to go to work and then go home to bed straight away. I had no energy or motivation to exercise, and resorted to eating unhealthy food for comfort. Because of this I have gained more than 15kgs, and my self esteem levels are extremely low.
It has been a year. And finally, in the last couple of months, I have started to feel better. I have started to wean myself off all the medications I have been on.
Despite the fact that one of the men who raped me is walking free, I have single handedly forced the police to re-open my case, arrest the other man, and hopefully soon, put him in jail.
I was approached by the largest feminist organization in Korea. Right now, they are assisting and supporting me in suing the police for their negligence and the secondary damage that they have caused me.
I have been knocked down. Kicked while I was down by people I trusted. Failed time and time again. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t make it. That I would never get back up. But I did. And I’m stronger. I truly believe that you never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice that you have.
I still have bad days. I’ve learnt to hide them well. But the unending love and support of both the people I’m closest to, and people across the world that I have never even met before, keeps me going.
They tell me they wish they could do more. That they feel helpless. That they never know the right thing to say. I wish they knew how much they have done for me.
There is no right thing. Being there. Being present, no matter from how far, is enough. Checking in. Sending love. It makes the hugest difference.
Healing takes time. I’m taking baby steps. But I’m on my way.