Australian woman speaks out after man found not guilty of rape

  • Lyndon Montgomery was found not guilty of breaking into and raping Holly Harris’ home.
  • Harris spoke to Insider about why she decided to speak publicly about the case.
  • “I just refuse to accept that this is the reality for women,” Harris said.

When Holly Harris woke up, she was freezing. The sliding door in her bedroom was ajar, which confused her. She never slept with the door open, especially on a cold September night in Melbourne, Australia.

Sitting up, she realized she was naked, her hair was matted, and she was in pain. She looked to the left and saw a man lying there. His name is Lyndon Montgomery, by the way.

Almost four years later, on September 7, Montgomery was found not guilty to breaking into Harris’s home and raping her.

In her first interview since the tense trial, Harris spoke to Insider about how the case has affected her and why she chose to identify herself.

Harris’ name does not appear in any of the previous stories about her case because she did not consent to their publication. Under Victorian law, which governs the Australian state in which she resides, it is a criminal offense to publish information which could lead to the identification of a person who is allegedly the subject of a sexual offense but which an adult complainant can consent to revealing their own identity publicly .

After the verdict, Harris changed her mind about not being identified because she didn’t want other women who may have gone through something similar to feel embarrassed.

“I just refuse to accept that this is the reality for women and that it’s devastating for other women who have been raped or allegedly been raped,” she told Insider.

“I have done the most despicable thing”

On September 23, 2018, Harris went to a local bar on Chapel Street in Melbourne with friends. Before arriving at the bar, she said she had a few drinks at a friend’s friend’s and continued drinking with friends at the bar until she got drunk. Her memory afterward, she told Insider, wasn’t as clear.

As she left the bar, friends said she got into an Uber with her best friend, her best friend’s boyfriend and Montgomery – an acquaintance. When Harris got to her house, she said she remembered getting out of the car, walking to her door, and then realizing Montgomery was following her.

She said she asked him what he was doing and he told her he would take her to her door. According to Harris, after they exchanged a few words, including his professing his love for her, she said she wasn’t interested, said goodbye, and then locked the door behind her.

Harris said her nightly routine always consists of showering before bed, and that’s exactly what she did on that particular night. She once said she turned around and noticed Montgomery standing in the bathroom. Then she told him to get out, she said. Harris told Insider that after that point her memory was limited, but she remembered Montgomery lying on her bed. Later, in court, Montgomery did not deny that they had sex, but testified that it was consensual.

After waking up disheveled the next morning with Montgomery lying beside her, Harris said she asked him to leave, which he did. That morning she told her friends what had happened.

At her insistence, Harris went to the hospital later that night but was told she could not be seen. She said the paramedic’s reasoning was that she was a “crime scene,” meaning medics didn’t want to interfere with a possible criminal investigation. At the time, she had no intention of pressing charges, Harris said, adding she only wanted help because she was in pain.

Four days later, she received a text message from Montgomery.

In the text, obtained by Insider, he said: “I did the most despicable thing that can be done to a woman and I did it to you. It was never my intention that things were not amicable, I should have realized what you were telling me, but I didn’t.”

Lyndon Montgomery's text message to Holly Harris.

Lyndon Montgomery’s text message to Holly Harris.

Submitted by Holly Harris

Lyndon Montgomery's text message to Holly Harris.

Lyndon Montgomery’s text message to Holly Harris.

Submitted by Holly Harris

“Open, close, guilty”

Harris was 19 at the time. At first she wasn’t sure if she wanted to press charges. That changed a few weeks later when Montgomery started telling people his version of what happened that night, she said.

Harris went to the Victoria Police Department and after some persuasion, law enforcement had her make a pretense call – a recorded call used in sexual assault investigations. The phone calls have been criticized by advocates who say the practice can be traumatic for sexual assault survivors, according to The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In the phone call between Harris and Montgomery, he admitted entering Harris’s home through her sliding door but claimed the sex was consensual, according to Melbourne newspaper The Herald Sun.

At the trial, Montgomery reported to the court what happened that night and said he believed things were “flirty” between him and Harris at the bar. He testified that when the Uber they took together arrived at Harris’ house, he walked her to her door and she told him she “wanted [it] happen,” but wasn’t sure because she was in a relationship. According to Montgomery, they entered the house together, but Harris soon asked him to leave, which he did. “I honestly felt like we had this good and emotional connection and I wanted to talk to her about it,” he said.

He said he noticed a sliding door to Harris’ bedroom and checked that it was unlocked: “It was like I went in.”

Montgomery claimed he knocked on Harris’s bathroom door, where he overheard Harris showering, and “she said yeah, you can come in.” He said they then showered together before heading back to the bedroom, where they were, according to The Herald Sun had consensual sex.

Montgomery said sending the text message was a mistake and he sent it to placate Harris in order to prevent her from going to the police, according to the outlet.

The Herald Sun reported that his attorney, Belinda Frajic, argued that Harris’ memory of the night was “patchy” due to her intoxication. Franjic also urged the jury not to jump to conclusions about the text message.

“It’s easy to read such a text and say ‘open, closed, guilty’,” Franjic said in court, according to the newspaper.

The Herald Sun also reported that Franjic asked the jury to ignore the “current climate” around women’s consent and safety.

Franjic didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“I just refuse to accept that this is the reality for women”

During the three-week process, Harris was nervous and anxious. She said her Apple Watch alerted her that her resting heart rate had increased from 60 beats per minute to 83 beats per minute.

Harris was not in the courtroom during the trial and gave her testimony effectively on the advice of her legal team, but in retrospect she said she regretted doing so. She told Insider she wished she had faced the 12-person jury.

“If someone sits in front of you and tells them the worst thing that has ever happened to them, it’s often more impactful in person,” she said.

When the acquittal was announced, the 23-year-old said she was devastated but not surprised. “It was kind of just a crushing reality,” she told Insider. “I think that result said it doesn’t matter how much evidence you have. It’ll never be enough when you’ve got a rich white prep boy standing up there with the best lawyer money can buy. ” She said.

Harris said she believes her case is an example of how women are expected to be the perfect victim when they make allegations of sexual assault. Despite all of the evidence presented in court — her hospital visit, the pretext phone call, and Montgomery’s text message — it still wasn’t enough to convince the jury. Harris worries her case could discourage others with less evidence from coming forward.

“There’s no accountability for that and men will continue to think they can get away with it, and that’s not okay,” she said. “That’s what I kind of want to change. I have no idea how, but even if it’s just talking about it.”

Harris is currently studying law at university. After her experiences with the Australian legal system, she said her desire to become a criminal defense attorney was tainted.

“I imagine it would be very difficult to accept such a broken system and work in it every day. I think it would be quite exhausting even if you were trying to do the right thing,” she said.

The outcome of the case has sparked outrage from a number of Australians, including Clementine Ford, a writer who posted a video of the verdict on her Instagram. “You are so strong that you have resisted the legal system and in every single way it disempowers survivors. I think you are incredible. I’m so sorry you were let down. I believe you,” Ford said.

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, you can call or visit the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673). his website to receive confidential support.

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