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Alicia Gali: Rape Victim Who Was Jailed For Being Assaulted in UAE Tells Her Story

Those familiar with the Steubenville case or the Rehtaeh Parsons suicide are aware of the backlash against rape victims in contemporary society. Another rape victim, Alicia Gali, has recently come forward to describe her experience in a foreign prison as result of rape.

In 2008, Gali, then a 27-year-old Australian woman, was hired as the manager of the Starwood Le Meridien Al-Aqah Beach Resort, Fujairah, spa and beauty salon in the United Arab Emirates.  One night, after having her drink spiked in the employee bar, she awoke in her room, naked, covered in bruises, with four broken ribs. Reports were made during the night in response to her screams. Guards who entered the room saw her unconscious and three naked, male hotel employees in her room.

When Gali reported the assault, reportedly neither the Australian Embassy nor the hotel offered her assistance, an accusation the hotel denies. After seeking medical attention, she reported the assault to the police, which she did not know entailed admitting to illicit sex, a crime under United Arab Emirates law. According to UAE law, proving rape requires four adult male witnesses to the sex act who will affirm that it occurred. She also confessed to consuming alcohol, which is illegal without a license. Gali signed a confession in Arabic, which she did not understand.

She was sentenced to eleven months in prison for illicit sex and one month for alcohol consumption. Two rapists received twelve-month sentences as well, also for illicit sex; the third received thirteen months. After eight months in prison, which she described as “appalling” and a “nightmare,” she was pardoned. Her rapists were released on the same day.

After returning to Australia, Gali was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her experience. She has now filed a lawsuit against her employer, Starwood. The suit claims, "Ms. Gali's employer failed to warn her of the risk of being drugged, raped, charged with adultery and jailed if she complained."

She hopes, by speaking out, to raise awareness of the conditions and the application of Islamic law in seemingly Westernized countries, particularly alcohol, drug, and sexuality laws. A secretly filmed television documentary and interview documented her case and those of other women “abandoned in the UAE” and allowed Gali to speak out. It can be viewed here.

Certainly recent events have brought to light the fact that Americans are not models of response to rape or protecting victims. However, the international community and women’s rights proponents should not lose sight of the global plight of women and sexual assault survivors. The world must unite against sexual assault and the maltreatment of victims, no matter the local perception of sex, to ensure that sexual assault victims are not further victimized by seeking justice.

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