A woman who was raped by one of her superiors while she was in the ADF. Photo: Penny StephensPrivate Jade Jones* was standing near the smoking yard at Darwin’s Robertson Barracks chatting with two male soldiers when her sergeant approached and licked the right side of her face from jawline to hairline.
“What are you going to do about that?” Sergeant Shawn Macey demanded as the two men beside her laughed.
Jones did nothing except skulk away, embarrassed. Who was she to question the actions of her superior, particularly the man responsible for discipline in her unit?
While most Australian workplaces would condemn Sergeant Macey’s behaviour as unacceptable, Jones knew it would be seen differently in the army – even among many of her female colleagues. In the army you were expected to be tough and able to cope. And you certainly did not dob.
Short and lightly built, the mother of three joined the Army in July 2010 at the age of 31. She was in the 1st Combat Support Service Battalion.
Jones had not really had anything to do with Macey up until then. She had heard some female soldiers say he was flirty. Creepy is how others put it. But she had no reason to give him much thought until late November 2011, when he began to pay her special attention.
It started with slaps on the bum in the corridor. Then the public face lick. Next, on December 6, 2011, Jones was on the receiving end of a “reverse dry hump” in Macey’s office. This had Macey, a tall, fit man in his early 30s, backing the much smaller female soldier into a wall and thrusting his buttocks back and forth into her groin for close to a minute.
Jones was shocked and frightened but she still felt unable to report Macey for fear of jeopardising her fledgling career. She worried that she would become the focus, not him. So she went to the toilet and cried.
The next day, Macey ordered Jones to accompany him to a forklift shed to check on how many hours the machines had been in service. What happened next is hotly disputed: The only certainty is that the incident was the catalyst for both to leave the armed forces
For a defence force still reeling from decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups – not to mention the Skype and Jedi council scandals involving cadets and servicemen transmitting sexually explicit images of women without their permission – the case of Macey and Jones casts serious doubt over the effectiveness of recent efforts to reform the military’s culture. On Friday, another cadet from the Australian Defence Force Academy was charged with rape.
Jones was unable to bring her case before the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce because Macey’s assaults took place months after the April 2011 cut-off for submissions. She is not able to receive compensation.
The taskforce, which recommended a royal commission, received more than 2400 complaints and identified more than 1000 alleged abusers still working in the armed forces, the defence department or as reservists. Eighty cases have been referred to police and more than $30 million paid out to victims in compensation.
But a Fairfax Media investigation into what happened to Jones after she reported Macey to her superiors shows that repeated efforts by successive governments and military brass to change a culture of sexual harassment, abuse and bastardry may have had, in some pockets at least, a limited impact. Abusers are still leaving defence with their honour intact, while their victims are subjected to secondary abuse by the system meant to support them.
YOU’RE TERRIBLE, MURIEL
The forklift shed at Robertson Barracks was a short walk across the yard from Macey’s office.
On December 7, 2011, the day after the dry hump incident, Jones was walking down a corridor when Macey yelled from his office for her to come in.
He said nothing about what had happened there the day before and, according to Jones’ statement to police, made small talk for a few minutes. Then, without warning, he blurted out: “I love you. I’m serious, I love you”.
Taken aback and unsure what to do next, Jones replied awkwardly that she liked him as a friend (even though she hardly knew him) and made to leave. But before she could, Macey asked her to come to a shed to “check the hours of some of the forklifts”.
The job was within her scope of works and he was her superior, so she obeyed. Inside the shed it was just the two of them. Macey had his notepad out and was taking down numbers from a machine. Jones was wedged between two forklifts when he grabbed her from behind.
“One of his arms came over one of my shoulders. I can’t recall which hand but he stuck his down my top,” she told police. His other hand was tightly gripping her waist, preventing her from moving.
“I tried to turn around and I can’t remember what he said but it was something like ‘no’ or ‘don’t’. So I stayed where I was with my back to his front … I think he used both hands to pull my trousers down. I don’t remember him saying anything. I felt so intimidated and trapped and I was too shocked to say anything to him. I was a bit scared as I didn’t know what he was going to do.”
Macey had sex with her. He later told police it was consensual. She was adamant that it was not, telling police she was not able to speak because she was frozen by fear.
After he finished, Macey looked at her and said: “You’re terrible, Muriel” and walked off. Jones went to a bathroom to wash, and threw her underwear in a bin.
She told no one – except one female colleague months later – what had happened. But her life spiralled out of control. She began drinking heavily at home and three months later had a short fling with another soldier – two things both she and her husband said were out of character.
More than six months had passed by the time Jones finally told her unit’s psychologist of the assaults. She said shame and fear of reporting her boss were why she had taken so long. The disclosure triggered an Australian Defence Force Investigative Service probe. At first, Jones only mentioned the indecent assaults: The bum slaps, the face lick and “reverse dry hump”. She was deeply concerned about the personal and professional ramifications of a rape allegation.
But the Defence Force investigators found out that Jones had told a female private about the unwanted intercourse, and had to hand over the investigation to the Northern Territory police.
Jones told police and Defence investigators in sworn statements that she had learned there were several other women at Robertson Barracks who had had uncomfortable experiences with Macey touching them inappropriately or propositioning them for sex. Two female civilian contractors at the base had also alleged he indecently assaulted them.
Detectives from the NT’s sex crimes unit now had a potentially big case on their hands. But when it came time to provide sworn statements, several of the army women who had made complaints said they did not wish to speak to police.
A Defence spokesman said the force’s investigative service investigated all complaints referred to it. “Where appropriate, matters are referred to civilian police or the Director of Military Prosecutions”, the spokesman said.
Police put a brief of evidence to the NT Director of Public Prosecutions for charges of rape and indecent assault. But the DPP advised that it would not be proceeding with a rape charge because it could not prove Macey did not know it was not consensual. Instead, Macey was charged with indecently assaulting Jones and the two female contractors.
The NT Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Support Unit does not require the same balance of proof as a court to make decisions on offences. It assessed Jones’ rape allegation and found in her favour, awarding her a sum of money in August last year.
The NT government assessor’s report highlighted inconsistencies in Macey’s account of events and the weight of adverse statements against him. “It was more probable than not … that the offender had sexual intercourse with the applicant without the applicant’s consent and furthermore, that the offender was reckless as to the applicant’s lack of consent,” the assessor concluded.
The NT government told Jones that it would be pursuing Macey to repay the compensation awarded to her.
In the end, the demand for the money might prove more painful to Macey than what happened to him in Darwin’s Magistrates’ Court in February last year.
Macey had just resigned from the army when his case first hit court in 2013.
Although he was facing eight charges of indecent assault against three women, it could have been far worse: the rape allegation by Jones was not being pursued and not every female who had a problem with his behaviour had assisted police.
Macey had decided to plead guilty to five of the indecent assault charges.But what he did not know was that the NT had mandatory sentencing laws for sexual offences including aggravated indecent assault. He had just put himself in jail.
After learning of the implications of his plea, Macey and his legal team attempted to withdraw it. But chief magistrate John Lowndes rejected their application.
Even though he was out of the army, his old colleagues were not going to let him go down without a fight. A recently retired female major turned up to give evidence. Another serving senior female officer from the same barracks was also prepared to testify on his behalf.
Rhonda McIntosh told the court that she had been Macey’s platoon commander at Robertson Barracks in 2011, the year the offending took place. She said they were working to rebuild morale in a unit “pretty well decimated” by its previous command.
As such, they were in daily contact. Macey was McIntosh’s strong arm. “He was the disciplinarian,” she said. But she rejected crown prosecutor Ian Rowbottam’s view that this role gave him power over juniors. McIntosh said Macey was “very well regarded” and “never had any interpersonal clashes with anybody”. She believed he had a “normal working relationship” with the three women who reported him.
Despite knowing that Macey had pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assaults, McIntosh sought to defend him by attacking the “persona” and “character” of his victims.
“I don’t change my opinion [of Macey] because I’m also aware of the personas of those ladies,” she said. “”My opinion of Shawn Macey stands, but I also know the character of [one of his victims] and so I tend to look at both sides as to what happened and I have my own personal thoughts, you know, upon which I base those decisions.”.
She was not in court to hear McIntosh’s remarks, but Jones was told about them. Still serving at the time, her superior officer’s testimony devastated her and reinforced why she had been reluctant to report Macey in the first place.
“I was outraged. By the time we had gone to court I had posted to a new location and I’d heard from the DPP of what had happened in that hearing. I couldn’t continue to work. I had to go home early that day. I was given the following day off as well as I was too upset.”
Macey’s lawyer, Julia Ker, argued that her client’s actions were an “accepted” way of “personnel interacting with each other”. She also presented the court with a psychiatrist’s report showing that Macey suffered from PTSD caused by “certain conditions he’s been exposed to in the armed forces”.
Rowbottam told the court the case reflected poorly on the army and its culture. He asked that the chief magistrate not condone the army’s attitude when sentencing Macey.
Lowndes took Macey’s service into account but did not accept evidence that his conduct was acceptable in his workplace.
“They were innocent victims,” the Chief Magistrate said. “Regardless of how playful that the environment might have been, they did not deserve to be subject to the conduct that they were.”
Nevertheless, Lowndes sent Macey to jail for just 14 days, with a further 30 weeks suspended.
“I found this a complete insult because it meant my service and all the other women meant nothing,” Jones said.
THE SENATOR AND THE GENERAL
South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon raised Jones’ case in person and then again in writing with the then chief of the Australian army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, shortly before his retirement last year.
Xenophon, a passionate advocate for Defence personnel who have suffered abuse, had been tipped off by one of his veterans’ rights contacts about Jones’ plight.
He believed that if anyone in senior ranks was going to care about what happened to Private Jones, it would be Morrison, who had won deserved praise for telling serving males in a viral video to “get out” if they could not work respectfully alongside women.
It was this style of leadership that led to Morrison being appointed Australian of The Year on January 26 this year. Xenophon knew that Morrison was due to finish his post within weeks but hoped the General would accept a request to meet Jones.
Xenophon’s “urgent by email” letter to Morrison in April last year was explicit and included Jones’s statements to police and Defence investigators. The senator wrote of his serious concerns with the way the army had handled the case. He believed she had been let down by her chain of command while Macey had been able to voluntarily leave the army and receive full veterans’ entitlements despite his criminal charges.
Morrison directed a senior officer in his office to correspond with Xenophon to learn more about the case. Because of the protocols that govern the top brass’ interactions with politicians, this correspondence also included the office of then defence minister Stuart Robert.
The meeting did not happen. The assistant minister’s office took carriage of Xenophon’s request. Jones was offered a meeting with a ministerial adviser.
Jones was deflated. She had wanted to tell her story to General Morrison, not a ministerial adviser.
“I was being bullied by other members in the Defence force. Some come up to me and said that I had put a good man in jail,” she said.
“On the flipside, I had other members come up to me and tell me about how they had been abused and if they retaliated they were being punished and not the person who attacked them. I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I wasn’t getting the support I needed. They isolated me. I’d spend my lunchtimes crying in the car.”
Xenophon told Fairfax Media “what happened to this woman was not meant to happen anymore”.
“I thought the culture had changed. I thought the electrifying words of General Morrison a few years ago were terrific, but those words were not followed up on by Defence.”
Morrison declined to comment, pointing out that it was a matter for the army. A Defence spokesman said Jones had been offered considerable medical and pyschological support. He said Defence did not condone any member bullying another for reporting abuse by a superior.
Jones left the army last year. Her nerves are shot and she finds it hard to leave her house in country Victoria. But she is trying to rebuild her life with her husband and kids. Macey has settled in country NSW with his wife and children.
Though her respect for the army and nearly all the people she served with remains, Jones wants her tale to be considered a cautionary one, but also one that can lead to change.
“Forewarned is forearmed,” she says.
*Jade Jones is not the former private’s real name. She has asked for her identity to be protected. Know more? Contact us securely via JournoTips or SecureDrop