| 17.05,09. 08:32 AM |
Woman breaks silence over Broncos incident
May 17, 2009 12:00am
THE woman at the centre of sexual-assault allegations against three Brisbane Broncos in a nightclub toilet last year has come forward with her story in the wake of the crisis that has rocked rugby league.
She told of the speed at which the situation got out of her control and the anguish she has endured.
"After a few kisses, things went drastically wrong . . . I absolutely froze. I ask myself why I didn't do something, why I didn't scream, why I didn't punch," she said, while speaking for the first time about what happened at the Alhambra Lounge nightclub, in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, on September 13.
The woman's allegations led to a six-week police investigation involving Broncos Karmichael Hunt, Sam Thaiday and Darius Boyd, who now plays for St George Illawarra.
The players said they all had consensual sex with the woman in the cubicle, police said.
No charges were laid after the inquiry and evidence - which included video from a mobile phone - was independently reviewed by barrister Tim Carmody, SC.
National Rugby League chief executive David Gallop said yesterday the woman's story was another reminder to players to respect women at all times.
"Her expression that things got out of control quickly should ring alarm bells loudly," Mr Gallop told The Sunday Telegraph.
"The pain of this woman is another reminder that the message must sink in for everyone.
"This is precisely the apparent green-light problem Phil Gould identified on The Footy Show."
A Broncos spokesman said the club's CEO Bruno Cullen had worked almost daily with the police during their investigation.
"The club accepted the police version of events and from that we believe we disciplined the players appropriately,'' he said.
While the Broncos trio continue to play top-level league, the 24-year-old has relived her experience amid the game's sexual attitudes crisis, which erupted after last Monday's Four Corners report.
The woman said she had not seen the program, which focused on a group sex encounter involving Cronulla players in New Zealand during 2002 and explored sexual attitudes in the game.
However, the woman involved in the Broncos incident has watched news reports in recent days about Johns and his admitted involvement with as many as 11 team-mates and a 19-year-old barmaid.
She said she had decided to speak up publicly because those reports had prompted her to wonder what the Broncos players she met were thinking over the past week.
The well-spoken, hard-working professional said she felt degraded and discarded. She has worked with doctors and mental-health specialists to get her life back on track but says the encounter follows her around like a "dark cloud".
"The (police investigation) has been closed, so it's history. It's not history . . . I will never forget. I'm still functioning and my life is not over (by) any means, but I will never, ever forget this," she said.
"Whenever I think (about it), I just want to spit. It's just disgusting, absolutely disgusting."
The woman says she has trouble looking in the mirror because all she feels is "disgusting" and "dirty".
She now despises the game she once loved.
The woman says she clearly remembers the events that led up to her meeting the Broncos trio.
She had been with two female friends, in their early 20s, for several hours at the Valley Fiesta. She had been drinking but felt in control.
They first went to the Mustang Bar, where they spotted Thaiday and several other men talking to other patrons. "It was excitement for us to see a footballer, and I was a (Broncos) fan," she said.
She said Thaiday soon left and told them they would have to find out where he was going to next.
The women were the only females present when they walked into the Alhambra Lounge about 7pm.
The woman said a staff member told her the nightclub had just opened after a private function involving Broncos players and other supporters. She said she had gone to the bar with one of her girlfriends to buy a drink and exchanged eye contact with Hunt, who was nearby.
"I think he said something along the lines of: 'Hey, good looking' or 'Hey, sexy'. I went over to him . . . he took my hand," she said.
The woman said she accompanied Hunt to a cubicle in the men's toilet.
She said she felt safe. "Yeah, I was (star-struck) . . . I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, I've got Karmichael Hunt in a toilet cubicle'," she said.
The woman then said that "after a few kisses, things went drastically wrong". She said in a "blink of an eye", Thaiday and Boyd were also in the cubicle.
"That was when the incident happened," she said.
The woman, a petite 60kg and about 160cm tall, said she was not aware the incident may have been filmed on a mobile telephone, until later informed by police, but suspected a photo had been taken.
"I looked up and there was someone standing on a toilet seat (in the next cubicle) and they had a phone. My immediate reaction was they had taken a photo," she said.
She said she then asked Thaiday to open the door and she left the cubicle. She returned to the main area of the nightclub and says she at first declined to reveal to her two friends what had happened.
But at their urging, she eventually told them and said she had to leave the nightclub immediately.
The woman said one of her friends had returned to the Alhambra Lounge, confronted a man they believed was a "chaperone" for the Broncos and told him what had happened.
The woman and one of her friends went back to the Mustang Bar, where they smoked a cigarette before getting a taxi home.
The woman said she began crying inconsolably and ran out of her house before collapsing in a neighbour's yard. A family friend contacted police. It was less than two hours after the alleged incident.
She was taken to hospital for treatment and tests and was interviewed at length by police officers the next day.
" I had no sleep. It was very hard . . . just having to relive everything," she said. "It was a hard thing to do."
The woman said the police had been thorough with their investigation and supportive of her.
She said she and her family initially monitored news reports about the incident but it quickly became too much to handle.
She was angered by the club's decision not to stand down the three players pending the outcome of the police investigation.
On November 10, police announced no charges would be laid, citing "insufficient evidence".
The woman said she cried when police telephoned her to advise no charges would be laid, but said part of it was relief, adding: "There was just not enough evidence."
The woman involved said she had had no contact with the players or the club.
She said she had become angry when the trio did the television interview and apologised to their families and fans - but not to her.