Here, Xan Fraser, 48, tells the story in her own words.
B￼linking open both my eyes, I peered down at my hands. Caked with mud, my fingernails were filthy against the white hospital sheets. What happened to me? I thought, panicking.
It was 1981 and, at just 12, I would spend hours twirling around on my skates. But on the way, I ran into an older girl, Nicole*, who I recognised from our neighbourhood.
‘Do you want to come to mine to listen to records?’ she asked. ‘Sure,’ I replied, pleased that such a cool teenager would want to hang out with me.It seemed harmless, but that decision would change my life forever. Reaching Nicole’s place, her big brother, David*, was sitting at the kitchen table with three mates. There was one familiar face – a boy who lived nearby.
‘Want a drink?’ one of the boys asked me. ‘Yes, please,’ I replied, feeling pressured to fit in. As I took a big swig, the foul alcoholic liquid burned my throat. Eager to please, I emptied the glass. And then another. Soon, my head was swimming. Then everything went black.The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed.
Strangers poked and prodded my aching body, and cameras flashed as doctors discussed my condition like I wasn’t there. How did I get here? I wondered, slipping back into the darkness. Finally, my eyes snapped open again. My mum, Kaye, sobbed as she held my hand. ‘Why do I have mud in my fingernails?’ I croaked.‘I’m sorry, honey, you’ve been raped,’ Mum cried. ‘What does that mean?’ I asked, terrified by her tone.
As she explained, my world collapsed. I’d never even kissed a boy before. My memory was blank, but detectives quickly arrested David’s three friends. It turned out that after I’d passed out, they’d grabbed my arms and legs, and lugged my limp body to a secluded bush block.Stripping me naked, the monsters had raped me before dragging me back to the house. In the yard, they’d left me for dead in the freezing cold.
Early the next morning, a couple found me and called an ambulance.I was suffering hypothermia and alcohol poisoning. This can’t be real, I prayed. Showering, the extent of my violation became clear. Running down my legs in dirty swirls, thick mud had crusted in my ears, lashes and buttocks. It was like I’d been buried alive.
When my case was heard in the Queensland Supreme Court in May 1982, it felt like I was on trial. My mum was ordered to stay outside while I had to sit just metres away from my attackers. If I can just be strong and tell the truth, they’ll be punished, I reasoned.
‘How much make-up were you wearing that night? Were your jeans so tight that you had to lie on your bed and do them up with a coat hanger?’ the lawyer asked. Though I was young, I understood the implication. Somehow, this was my fault. Why are you picking on me? I didn’t hurt anyone! I thought, frustrated.
Still, my attackers were given a slap on the wrist. Escaping jail, they were sentenced to just two years probation for indecent dealing and attempted rape. Even worse, one of the monsters still lived nearby. It was unbearable.
Livid at the unfairness of it all, I went off the rails. Acting up and rebelling against my mum, at just 13 years old I fell pregnant. Still a baby myself, at 14, I welcomed my boy Justin. ‘I’m going to be a good mum,’ I promised him.
Four years later, I had my little girl Krystal.
My spirit was shattered, but my beautiful kids saved me. Not wanting that night of terror to define me, I lived life to the full and did the best for my children.
Then six years ago, over 30 years after the attack, I filed a Freedom of Information request.
For closure, I needed to see the court transcripts. But when I received them in the mail, all I felt was blind rage. Had the girl retained some degree of consciousness, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in that condition she may have consented to your acts. Who’s to know? Justice John Macrossan’s sentencing remarks read.
‘How could he say that about a 12-year-old child?’ I asked my husband, Glen, 37, sobbing. So, along with playwright Hellie Turner, I created the play Project Xan. Opening in Perth last year, I took to the stage to share my story.
My innocence may have been stolen, but no-one will take my voice.
*Names have been changed.
For more, pick up this week's copy of that's life! - on sale now.