In August 2000, Sydney was gripped by Olympic fever. But in the shadows of the pre-games euphoria, one of its defining events was unfolding.
Over two months, at least six young women fell prey to a gang of up to 14 Lebanese Australian men who terrorised western Sydney, gang raping women and humiliating them with racist taunts and violence.
From trains, shopping centres and other public places, the girls were enticed to secluded places – a puff of a joint, or an otherwise harmless activity.
But before long they found themselves surrounded, the gang’s leader Bilal Skaf having been summoned or friends being called to join in the ritualistic torture. As well as being repeatedly raped by a variety of men, a teenager was abused as an ”Aussie pig”, told she would get it ”Leb style” among other sickening taunts.
Another was raped over six hours, then hosed down outside a freezing toilet block in which she had been raped by more than a dozen men. Some of her attackers were never caught. When news of the rapes broke, the headlines screamed the outrage felt around the nation.
The ringleader Skaf was sentenced to a maximum of 55 years jail, the judge encapsulating the community horror simply: ”[These were] events you hear about, or read about, only in the context of war-time atrocities.”
In total, nine men were convicted, receiving jail terms totalling 240 years in jail.
In late 2001 and in 2002, it was revealed that another series of attacks on young women had been perpetrated by four Pakistani brothers, dubbed the K Brothers.
The girls to come forward were aged 16 and 17, telling police they were lured, threatened at knifepoint and sexually assaulted at the brothers’ Ashfield home. They were each told the other had been killed because she had resisted orders.
They broke their silence, which led to claims up to 18 women had been raped by these men. The brothers were sentenced to between 15 and 24 years imprisonment.
Together, the highly publicised cases lifted a lid on a heinous series of crimes. It was undoubtedly a dark period of Sydney’s criminal history.
More than 12 years later, the term ”gang rape” is not one heard regularly.
The head of the NSW Police Sex Crimes Squad, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, described it as ”very, very rare”.
He said we now have better educations programs; and that the Skaf case may have contributed to gang rape being virtually non-existent now.
”I would think that played a part, yes,” he said. ”It certainly drew a line under it.”
He said the cases highlighted the flaws in the way they were tried and enabled a raft of legal and procedural changes, including victims giving evidence through CCTV.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.