A women who was ‘gang raped’ by a notorious surf gang when she was just 14 has shared how her desperate pleas for justice went unanswered.
Karen Iles, 43, was barely a teenager when she was pushed into a room and repeatedly sexual assaulted by a group of 15 men almost double her age.
She and a friend had travelled from Gosford in NSW, to Queensland’s Gold Coast for a family holiday they planned to spend on the beach in their brand-new bikinis.
Unbeknownst to the girls, members of a notorious ‘surf gang’ were also staying at the Rainbow Commodore Holiday apartments in October, 1993.
Ms Iles, now a lawyer, said the group of teenage boys and young men started hanging around her in the pool area before inviting her to their room for lunch.
‘I now recognise that what happened to me were classic grooming behaviours that any pedophile would use with a child,’ she told The Project on Wednesday night.
Karen Iles, 43, (pictured) was barely a teenager when she was pushed into a room and repeatedly sexual assaulted by a group of men almost double her age back in 1993
One of the older of the men took lead her to a bedroom where he pushed her backwards and began to aggressively kiss her on the bed.
Despite her repeatedly telling him ‘no’ and ‘that hurts’, the young man continued to assault her as the rest of the gang began filing into the room to watch.
She alleges the men took it in turns to abuse her, and recalls the older men calling the 15 and 16-year-old boys ‘virgins’ for not getting involved.
‘They were very orchestrated and methodical,’ Ms Iles told news.com.au.
‘I can remember thinking to myself that there were too many boys in the room and I wouldn’t be able to get out.
‘So I closed my eyes and thought: “I hope it’s over with as soon as possible”.’
When she was finally allowed to leave, the dazed and confused 14-year-old ran from the room to rejoin her friend and take a shower.
Ms Iles didn’t tell her parents about the alleged abuse but returned home a different girl who no longer felt the same passion for her schoolwork, sport, or music.
Ms Iles (pictured) says the group of teenage boys and young men that raped her had started hanging around her in the pool area before inviting her to their room for lunch
Known as a studious and well-behaved teenager, the schoolgirl started sitting with the ‘naughty’ girls at school who misbehaved and did drugs.
At 16, Ms Iles thought about leaving school and working in a café. At 17 and 18 she developed anorexia, wore grungy clothing and shaved her head.
Her parents grew increasingly suspicious and finally rifled through her diary, coming across an entry where she had described the horror of the alleged abuse.
They told her that the boys responsible ‘could get into a lot of trouble’ however Ms Iles said she still blamed herself and didn’t want to get them into trouble.
Her perspective changed during a 2004 International Women’s Day March.
Surrounded by other courageous women, Ms Iles said she found the courage walk into Newtown Police Station armed with all the evidence she had.
Known as a studious and well-behaved teenager, the schoolgirl (pictured) started sitting with the ‘naughty’ girls at school who misbehaved and did drugs after she endured the rapes
‘I gave the exact location, the exact year, the exact month. I gave the name of the gang, physical descriptions, the names of a co-victim and a witness, I also handed over my childhood diary, and that diary has never ever been found,’ she said.
Ms Iles was told a joint investigation would be launched by Redfern Police in Sydney and Coolangatta Police in Queensland, however it quickly stalled.
Her case was forgotten due to a lack of cooperation from NSW Police, with Ms Iles only finding out decades later that her case had been closed after just one week.
She spent almost two decades desperately trying to persuade police to investigate before she was blindsided with yet another devastating update.
In 2018, Queensland Police said her original 15-page statement had been shredded.
She was ‘destroyed’ after finding out her case had been closed for over a decade and struggled with suicidal thoughts.
The joint investigation into her claims was closed due to a lack of cooperation from NSW Police. Ms Iles found out decades later that her case had been closed after just one week
Three years later in 2021, a copy of her file was found by NSW Police, who at the time gave no explanation for why it had suddenly turned up.
Almost two decades after she first gave a statement on her horrific experience, Ms Iles was invited to a meeting with police in December, 2021.
‘The trauma of the sexual assaults was one thing,’ she said.
‘But the trauma of dealing with police and our justice system is something entirely different. In my case, that trauma of dealing with police is much worse if you can believe it, than the trauma of the gang rapes that I endured.’
She has now launched a petition for new laws that will hold officers accountable to thoroughly investigate serious crimes such as hers.
Ms Iles was ‘destroyed’ after finding out her case had been closed for over a decade. She is now pushing for new laws that will hold police officers accountable to investigate properly
‘I’m asking the politicians and the attorney-generals in our country to create a legally binding minimum standard of investigation,’ she said.
‘So when someone goes in and reports a serious crime, that we as a society know exactly how police are going to investigate that.’
Ms Iles says the laws will introduce a minimum set of standards police officers will need to meet to ensure the investigation has been conducted properly.
‘Victims and their families are being failed every day by police forces around this country,’ she said.
As of Wednesday night, the petition had received almost 35,000 signatures.
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)
Domestic Violence Counselling Service 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732