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Claire looking for closure

FINAL BATTLE? Claire McFarlane of Byron Bay is fighting a court case in France.
FINAL BATTLE? Claire McFarlane of Byron Bay is fighting a court case in France. Doug Eaton

FOR a decade, Claire McFarlane pushed back the memories of the extremely violent sexual assault that left her for dead on a street in Paris in 1999.

Then, nearly 10 years to the day later, DNA evidence was produced that led to the capture and jailing of the Byron Bay woman's attacker.

While those court proceedings were finalised in 2011, now, almost 16 years after her attack, Claire must return to France to testify for a second time and re-live the assault all over again.

This time her story will be told during an appeal to recoup half of the $30,000 she has spent in legal costs - and her lawyers have also told her there is a chance her assailant may have been given parole after having only served three years of a 12-year sentence.

"Criminal proceedings in France are civil and it is the victim's responsibility to prosecute and pay for all costs associated," Claire said.

This next round of court attendance is likely to cost $4000 to $6000, and before Claire flies to Paris on Monday, she is holding a fundraiser for herself as well as for local services for victims of sexual assault.

Claire was only 21 when she was assaulted.

An unfunded foreign arts student working in a bar to pay her way, the man attacked her on her way home from work and was so violent Claire spent the next three months in hospital recovering from her injuries.

It turns out that the rapist had attacked in the same area a month before Claire was assaulted, but had not been caught.

After the attack, Claire discovered support for sexual assault victims in Paris was minimal, especially for foreigners.

Despite her ordeal, she agreed to take the matter to court 10 years later as the DNA evidence appeared, not knowing the legal hurdles that would await her in France's complex system where the matter had to be run as a civil case, at the victim's expense.

"I had no idea what I was in for (with the court case) but I felt like it was an opportunity to put this behind me," she said.

"It took two-and-a-half years to get to court and there were lots of times where I wanted to give up - but I needed justice to be done.

"It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

"I feel that I have completed a civil duty by taking an extremely violent man off the streets of Paris so that he does not hurt any more women."

The last leg of that fight for justice happens next week. Whatever the outcome, Claire said it will "mark the end" for her, and that she hoped telling her story would help other survivors of rape and assault find strength.

"When I told my story in front of the jury in 2011, I felt as if this huge weight had been lifted from me."

 

To help Claire with her costs

Donate to Claire's GoFundMe campaign at: http://www.gofundme.com/clairesbattletojustice

Join in a day of workouts for every level at Crossfit Byron Bay from 9am tomorrow. Raffles, BBQ, beer and coffee. 12 Centennial Circuit, Arts and Industry Estate.

Funds raised at Crossfit will be shared between Claire and the Lismore Women's Health Resource Centre.

Topics:  rape, sexual assault



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