'Part of me died': Schoolgirls share horrific assault stories

Nadine Carroll
·6-min read

WARNING - Story contains details of assault that may be triggering to some.

Two schoolgirls, both sexually assaulted at the age of 14, have opened up about what they describe as Australia's rape culture and why they believe many Australians will never forget Scott Morrison's weak response to the crisis.

The two assault survivors, now in year 12, spoke to The Project's Lisa Wilkinson on Monday night about how their assaults have changed their lives and shared ideas for how to improve the social and political response to the ongoing problem.

"I was drugged up, completely immobilised and raped," Lily-Maud Horton told The Project.

Lily-Maud Horton on The Project
Lily-Maud Horton said she was raped when she was 14, now in Year 12, she is speaking out. Source: The Project

She is now in year 12 but said the rape that happened to her at a party three years ago left her "incredibly unstable."

"Broken. Terrified of men. In any situation where a male that isn't my brother is near me, I'm scanning, assessing, looking for danger," Lily said.

'I didn't realise that a monster could look so kind'

She said a man in his 20's raped her and too frightened to move, she could only "just mentally leave and wait till it's over".

"I didn't realise that a monster could look so kind. It was frightening to not have control of your own body, to have someone on top of you with the most intense eyes you've ever seen and such power, being paralysed in that way is something I wouldn't wish on anyone," she said.

Danielle Villafana says she was also paralysed when she was assaulted.

She says she was 14 and on a crowded public train with a friend she trusted when it happened.

Danielle Villafana on The Project
Danielle Villafana was 14 when she was assaulted on a public train by a friend. Source: The Project

"I was so, so scared. I didn't think there was anything else I could do but freeze and wait it out," Dani told Wilkinson.

Days later the teenager broke down and told a teacher what happened. The teacher phoned the police but Dani said doesn't know what was more traumatic, the assault or the interrogation by police.

The police asked her what she was wearing

"They interrogated me on essentially what exactly had happened to me and what I went through and what I said and what I did, and they asked me what I was wearing," Dani said.

"It was terrifying to me that the very people who exist and are paid to protect you could ask you something like that and challenge the most traumatising thing that has ever happened to you and suggest that, as a kid, it's your fault that this happened to you."

The police decided not to lay charges. 

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Dani, now in year 12 recently lead a rally at Sydney Town Hall calling for justice for sexual abuse victims. 

"What we see in Australia is that rape culture is so intrinsic to our understandings of power, we accept it as normal," she said.

"All of us are so deeply hurt not only by what happened to us and how we were failed, but the fact that it's still happening and it's happening in the places that are writing the laws."

Survivor and mum take aim at Prime Minister's response

Lily's mother, Karen Horton, took aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his failure to meet with women who turned up to Parliament House in a march for justice against sexual violence.

Sitting next her daughter she told Wilkinson that Australia wont forget the way he responded to the sexual misconduct accusations rocking Parliament House.

"I just don't think our government understands that we will never forget their response to this. We will never forget," she said.

Lily-Maud Horton (right) with her mum, Karen Horton (left) on The Project
Rape survivor Lily-Maud Horton (right) and her mum, Karen Horton (left) both lashed out at the PM. Source: The Project

'Part of me did die'

Lily also expressed her fury at Mr Morrison's response to the March 4 justice last month.

"ScoMo's comment about being able to protest safely, that is not an expression of opinion. That is pleading for the basic human rights. And for him to go, 'Oh, well, at least you weren't getting shot at...' I don't get it. 

"Because so many women are murdered as a result of this. And in a way, I was. I'm still living, but I'm not the same girl I was. Part of me did die inside."

Lily went to the police a few days after she was raped and described it as "very lucky" she ended up speaking with a female officer who was empathetic but said "the rest of it is awful".

"After my case, she quit. She could not handle having this job anymore. Because so many victims go through the court system and so evidently are victims, and then they just brush them off and say, 'Oh, not guilty'," she said.

"I wish I wasn't a statistic. I wish I wasn't a part of some huge number that the government doesn't care about."

Debate grows about consent education

Lily said she believes consent needs to be taught earlier in school as part of sex education.

"What needs to happen is that consent is taught far earlier - and actually taught. Not just contraception. I understand that's important. 

"What's far more important is that people don't have these experiences. Because the amount of boys that probably have assaulted someone and don't realise that what they've done is assault is the largest part of the issue."

Dani agrees and believes the awkward conversations need to start happening.

"What we see is that, from a young age, boys are never taught that they shouldn't keep hitting on that girl. They're never taught about what consent looks like."

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