Jessica Loiterton, 24, Cronulla, NSW
After a few hours drinking and dancing in the city, I was tired and tipsy so I decided to bail out early. My parents had always lectured me about staying safe after a night out, so I did what I always promised I would do and hailed a taxi.
I slipped into the front passenger seat but from the moment the cab left the curb, I felt uneasy. The young driver raced through the streets and swerved between cars as if he was desperate to get away from the traffic.
I must have drifted off as we continued towards my home almost 40 minutes away. But when I woke a few minutes later, I was startled to find the driver kissing my arm and trying to hold my hand.
Pulling away in shock, I leant closer to the window, tucking my hands tightly in my lap. 'Stop touching me,' I said firmly. 'I just want to go home.' Should I just get out? The thought crossed my mind.
But I had no idea where I was and to be honest, I'd had a bit to drink. If I got out in the middle of a highway there was no telling what might happen to me. Surely he was just trying it on. My brush-off couldn't have been any clearer.
Leaning against the window, I distanced myself from the driver and before I knew it, my eyes were closing again. But the sudden snap of my seatbelt unlocking jolted me into consciousness. The taxi had stopped and the driver was kneeling on my seat, pinning me down and pulling at my clothes.
Before I could react, he shoved me on to the back seat. Yelling for help I realised the taxi must have pulled off the main road. No-one could hear my screams as he raped me.
The moment he let go, I snapped. A surge of adrenaline coursed through my body as I lurched forward, grabbing my phone and one of my shoes from the front seat.
I had to escape. But I left one shoe behind - on purpose. Terrified as I was, I knew it might eventually help catch my attacker. Screaming as I ran, I managed to dial Triple-0 but I could feel the dark figure chasing after me. Seeing a street sign up ahead, I yelled the name down the phone. Just as I made it to the main road, a police car hurtled around the corner.
As the officers raced to help me, I mustered the strength to look up. The road where the taxi had been was empty. He'd gone. I told the officers my shoe was still in the cab, desperately hoping they'd catch him. Thankfully, they did. He'd been arrested a few blocks away after running a red light.
My family rushed to my side as I gave police a statement. In pain and confused, I couldn't believe what had happened. But I made a decision early on - I wasn't going to be ashamed. I'd done nothing wrong. That man should have driven me home safely. He took advantage of me and I wasn't going to let him get away with it.
When my case came before the court a year later, I made an unusual decision - not to have my name suppressed. Reliving my ordeal was terribly difficult. I was amazed to discover that my attacker, Md Kowsar Ali, was 22 and in Australia studying to become an accountant.
He was found guilty of two counts of indecent assault and one of having sexual intercourse without consent. He was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail.
That man's actions don't define me - I'm moving on with my life. If I can give just one woman the strength to come forward and report an assault, I've done something right.
Taxi tips - Taking a taxi is usually a safe option All taxi passengers have the right to feel safe, but if you're travelling alone there are some things you can do in order to further protect yourself.
- Ensure the ID photo of the taxi driver matches the actual driver. If it doesn't, leave the taxi. The driver's ID is normally on the vehicle dashboard or the windscreen visor.
- At night, sit in the back seat of the taxi and note down the taxi's plate number.
- If you know you are going to be travelling alone, limit your alcohol intake to stay alert.
- Book your taxi through a reputable taxi company.
As told to Stacey Hicks