'My attacker was my friend': Backpacker's rape 'hell' in Australia

An English backpacker claims she was raped while working on a Queensland farm in order to get her second year visa to stay in Australia, which requires backpackers to work in rural communities.

Helen Kingwell, 23, has detailed the “unbearable” conditions she says she was subject to while working in Bundaberg last year.

In a harrowing interview with news.com.au she claimed that . she had ended a relationship with her alleged attacker who was also living on the farm. The sexual relationship was previously consensual.

Ms Kingwell said two weeks after ending it she was attacked as he took advantage of the “awful conditions” they were living in. The group, who were allegedly picking zucchinis for less than the minimum wage at the time, lived in a number of “hot and unbearable” shipping containers.

The 23-year-old told news.com.au the pair went back to being friends but one night, while they had agreed to share a bed and watch a movie, she woke up to find him touching her.

Helen Kingwell, 23, claims she was raped while doing work on a Bundaberg farm. Source: Facebook/ Helen Kingwell

She rolled over and he pulled down her underwear. The next morning, Ms Kingwell “upset and in tears” confronted him about it.

He agreed not to do it again, but Ms Kingwell said the incident upset her and she turned to alcohol. That night she was intoxicated and her friends took her home and placed her in bed fully clothed.

“When I woke up, I was naked with semen inside me,” she told news.com.au.

She knew she had been raped. She confronted her alleged attacker who apologised but Ms Kingwell had a breakdown. “My attacker was my ‘friend’, but he took advantage of the awful conditions we were living in.

“I went through hell.”

She’s since contacted a counsellor and is undergoing therapy.

In an emotional Facebook post on New Year’s Eve, Ms Kingwell said despite the ordeal, her time in Australia has been “the best year of my life”.

“I didn’t think this time last year I would be feeling the way I do today. It’s a mixture of traumatic experiences but also not wanting to change anything because it has led me to where I am, and although today I still feel broken, traumatised and quite frankly a little bit sick towards the human race, I also feel empowered and ready for change,” she wrote.

Ms Kingwell said her attacker was a friend she knew while working on the farm. Source: Facebook/ Helen Kingwell

Calls to overhaul system as backpackers share horror stories

According to the Department of Home Affairs, to qualify for a Second Holiday Working visa backpackers have to complete 88 days of work in regional Australia. Areas of work include mining, construction, farming, fruit picking and fishing.

“We know there are jobs in regional Australia that aren't being filled by Australian workers, and we are giving regional businesses the immigration settings to help them fill those roles,” Immigration Minister David Coleman said in September.

A senate investigation in 2017 found allegations of "exploitation" and "slavery-like" conditions for backpackers in Australia and called for an urgent review of the 88-day program.

Backpackers have complained about the conditions they’ve been subjected to working as in regional Australia. Some have been victims of serious crimes.

Davine, a backpacker from Europe, was kidnapped, raped and held hostage for two days in hobby farmer Gene Charles Bristow's pig shed on his regional South Australian property in 2017.

Bristow had answered a Gumtree advertisement Davine posted. He was sentenced in May last year to 18 years in jail with a non-parole period of 12 years and six months.

In June, the ABC published an investigation of backpacker conditions under Australia's working holiday visa program including multiple horror stories of coercion, sexual harassment and rape.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au

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