Roxanne Peters killed her rapist but is that acceptable?
Roxanne Peters killed her rapist but is that acceptable?

Would I have killed my rapist given the chance?

LIKE most rape survivors, I've often wondered what I would have done if had access to a knife while I was being violated.

Would I have defended myself? Would I have killed my attackers?

"Vigilante justice" is a hot topic across the country following the jailing of Roxanne Eka Peters for killing a man who she claimed raped her.

Prosecutor David Nardone told the Brisbane Supreme Court this week that Grant Cassar went to Peters' home, wanting her to let him "cook drugs there".

When he was told no, 51-year-old Cassar "tied Peters up and raped her".

Cassar is said to have then threatened Peters' child "if she did not have sex with him again" so the mother stabbed him to the heart, the penis and throat.

Instead of calling police, Peters cleaned up the horrific mess, went to a counselling session and then returned home to dispose of Cassar.  

The court heard she dragged his body behind her car for 2km, before finally dumping him in a ditch.
Peters was convicted of manslaughter and interfering with a corpse, copping a maximum term of nine years.

With time served, she will be eligible for parole in 2020.

Cassar's family rejected Peters' claims about their loved one, saying he was a "loveable rogue with a sharp wit and great sense of humour".

"I know it isn't true he would ever threaten or hurt a woman or child as alleged," Cassar's mother said, describing Peters as a "monster" and as "cold and inhumane".

I am in no way condoning Peters' actions or suggesting that there is a place in our society for this type of "justice".

Yet, Peters' case does make me ask: "Would things have been different had I been holding a knife while I was being raped?"

The answer? Probably no?

The woman woke in the early hours of the morning to feel someone having sex with her. Source: iStock / Getty Images
Rapists are rarely convicted in Australia.

I was a child when I was attacked multiple times by different perpetrators.  During each rape, my body froze with fear.

I am thankful for that fear, because the much bigger adults who raped me could have easily ended my life if I put up a fight.

Most rape survivors I know have wondered what their lives would be like if they killed their attackers?

Rape is the ultimate violation of a human being. It is horrifying to endure and the impacts last a lifetime.
It changes everything you know about yourself.

There is relentless mental trauma, nightmares, sleepless nights and these do not ease as time passes.

Your ability to trust others is eroded entirely and you fear - even hate - physical affection.

Whether your response is fear, fight or flight, no part of you is left un-scarred when another person forces themselves into your body.

Our courts recognise the need for people to defend themselves when faced with violence - that's why we have charges like manslaughter and the more lenient sentences that go with this crime.

If a person is being raped and is in fear of his or her life, they should be able to use necessary force to keep themselves safe.

Australian Bureau of Statistics Victims of crime data shows reported sex assaults increased for the sixth consecutive year in 2017 - from 23,040 in 2016 to 24,957 in 2017.

Shockingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg because only 15 per cent of rapes are reported to police Australia-wide.
Women and girls are the main victims of sexual violence.

They do not disclose to police because they fear they won't be believed and their rapists can often be their partners or other "trusted" males so there are significant ramifications for their families and their own safety.

Survivors also know they will be torn apart by defence lawyers who often paint victims as sluts, as asking for it, as liars and as leading their attackers on.

Only a small number of rapists are charged and only 3 per cent of these cases end in convictions.

"You get your first rape free" is a common saying among my female friends.

It means even if rapists are convicted, the chances are high that they will not serve actual prison time for their first assault.

JUSTICE: Amalgamation of the Federal Court and the Family Court is designed to streamline Australia's legal system but the Law Council is not sure it's the answer.
Vigilante justice is not the answer to violence. DAVE HUNT

There is a perception that some Australian courts favour rapists and this is why so many women are giving a virtual clap on the back to Peters because - for them - she has handed out her own form of justice.

We must be very careful about turning Peters into a "vigilante hero".

She may have killed Cassar in self-defence but her actions following his death were abysmal and the way in which she disposed of his body was callous and uncalled for.

Instead of placing her on a pedestal, we need to step back and let Peters serve her time behind bars and - more importantly - we must give space for Cassar's family to grieve and recover from their loss.

Green-lighting vigilante justice sets us on a very dangerous path - the kind of path that could lead to more Australians taking justice into their own hands.

Our legal system is not perfect, but it is better than the alternative - a person being killed for a crime that is not worthy of the death penalty.
 
News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of the 2018 BandT Women in Media Social Change Maker Award and has Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her work reducing violence against women and children. She is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Femicide Australia Map.
 
*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.