The woman who endured rape and assault by disgraced One Nation adviser Sean Black has gone public with her gruelling experience of trying to seek justice.
Waiving her legal right to anonymity, Tanya has spoken out to reveal the stress from three days of cross-examination which triggered panic attacks and forced her to rush from the witness stand to vomit.
Speaking with the ABC the day after Black was found guilty of raping and repeatedly assaulting her, Tanya said the verdict left her in disbelief.
“I still kind of expect someone to take it away from me,” she said.
“He told me no-one would ever believe me”.
Tanya was married to Black and had two young children when he assaulted her, shoving her down stairs and crushing her hand in a door.
Black also raped her in a shower after she said he should stop hitting her.
Her vindication by a jury followed years of threats from a man who claimed he was protected by powerful connections from a career that took him from the state Labor party to Logan City Council, the LNP, and Canberra in One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts’s office.
However, Tanya said the trial was in some ways as traumatic as the crimes, and the justice system was in “desperate need” of sweeping reforms to better protect rape survivors.
“I would not put myself through that again. I was the one that was put on trial. That’s not right,” she said.
Black did not take the stand, but Tanya faced more than 12 hours of questioning.
She testified by video link to a closed court from a separate room, with a family friend by her side.
But she said the prolonged and vigorous questioning by the defence barrister was an unexpected trigger for her trauma.
Tanya said she finished her second day in court thinking she did okay.
“I really maintained my composure — I was calm and I was proud of myself,” she said.
“But that night I went to sleep and at 11:00pm I woke up and I couldn’t breathe and I knew I was having what’s called a panic attack.
“I’ve put my head down and I’ve calmed myself down but then my whole body just started shaking uncontrollably.
“And then I had the vomiting and diarrhoea, which pretty much went all night.
“[The next day] I actually had to vomit during the questioning.”
Prosecutors repeatedly told Tanya she was an “articulate witness” but warned her to mentally prepare for an acquittal.
She said her supporters were jubilant at the outcome but “I can’t say it’s joy that I feel — because I still feel sad about it all, that it has to come to these sorts of things”.
‘Is it rape if it happens when you’re married?’
Tanya first revealed details of the rape to a friend years after it happened, when “we were in her pool and we were talking about domestic violence”.
“It had just been playing over in my head, and I just said to her, is it rape if it happens when you’re married? And she’s going, ‘yeah, it is’.”
But Tanya did not go to police until nine years after the attacks, which she said was a last resort at the urging of a social worker.
She was concerned about her former partner’s aggressive behaviour escalating.
“The threat had always been, if this ever goes to court, I will kill you,” she said.
“It was a very real threat to me.”
She said he underlined his threats with repeated boasts that ‘I know all the politicians, I know all the police, I know all the judges’.
She eventually decided to report it to police, “just in case anything happened, they’d just have what they needed to have to start something”.
“I thought [police] would just put it on record, I didn’t think it would get anywhere because they’re so busy and we don’t matter,” she said.
She said she waited for over three hours at a police station trying to report the rape, and was about to give up when her friend urged her to go to another station.
Little happened for six months. But then her complaint landed on the desk of a detective with specialist training in dealing with family violence, who built the case against Black.
“I’m nothing special. But you’re told over and over that you are worthless and nobody cares, nobody will even notice you’re missing, and eventually, you believe it,” Tanya said.
“So to have someone say, ‘Yeah, this does matter’, it makes a difference.”
Black kept his paid role as an adviser to Senator Roberts for five months after he was charged.
The ABC also obtained photos of Black filming former Senator Roberts at a rally in Brisbane last month.
Trials tear victims apart, Tanya says
Lawyer Julie Sarkozi from the Queensland Women’s Legal Service said Tanya’s case was “really significant and very, very rare”.
“For women in Queensland to know they can make historical complaints about rapes that occurred in relationships, and that police will take it seriously, and the justice system does have the capacity to respond and to convict people, it’s rare,” she said.
“She was sober, resourceful and did a lot of groundwork even before making a complaint, including obtaining photos and medical reports of her injuries.”
Ms Sarkozi said Queensland is the worst Australian jurisdiction for rape victims and the experiences of survivors like Tanya should be the foundation of legal reforms.
Tanya’s experience showed the need to introduce expert witnesses and lawyers to represent victims in court, Ms Sarkozi said.
“The level of personal attack that survivors have to go through is just horrendous,” she said.
“Rape survivors always say to me, I just wanted someone on my side.”
Ms Sarkozi said expert witnesses could inform juries about the physical and psychological effects of trauma.
“So the information a barrister gets out of cross-examination and is trying to reveal about a survivor’s character and credibility is put in the context,” she said.
Rape trials turned on whether a victim was believable and “actually nothing about the accused at all”, she said.
Tanya said there should be time limits on cross-examination, and a victim’s advocate to help take the “dramatics” out of questioning.
“The purpose of filibustering and running it out for such a long time is just to wear me down, for no other purpose … and it worked,” she said.
“It made me very, very sick. It’s not something someone who’s been through trauma should have to deal with. It wasn’t the questions that were upsetting, it was being screamed and yelled at.”
Tanya said the effect of her rape trial was “to re-traumatise someone who has already been through something horrific”.
“It tears [victims] apart. They’re the ones who are put on trial. The defendant, it’s not compulsory for them to be cross-examined at any point.
“They can just sit there and watch.”