Lee McIntosh will never forget the night a woman knocked on her door and said, “My son did something to your daughter.”
It was 1994 and her daughter Taryn, 13, had gone to sleep with a school friend in suburban Melbourne.
But the eighth-grader returned home early and had to be supported physically by her friend’s mother.
Collapsed in a way that made her look like a ‘floppy doll’, Taryn Claut claimed she had been raped by her boyfriend’s brother, who was 20.
“It was the most horrific thing for a mother to go through,” Mrs. McIntosh said.
“To think that someone did that to your little girl and you put or allowed them in an unsafe environment.
“I’ve carried that guilt with me all along … who are you if you can’t protect your children?”
Taryn McIntosh (pictured) was just 13 when she was raped by a friend’s older brother in Melbourne in 1994
Her mother trusted their parents. But they were gone at the time.
Mrs Claut said she got “ridiculously drunk” with her friend and her friend’s two older brothers before one of them put her to bed.
She says she woke up to being raped and remembered there was blood on her skirt.
“I can only describe it as terrifying and shocking,” she told police.
She is now 40 and says her friend saw what happened but was too scared to intervene.
Ms Claut also says her attacker put his hands up her skirt as she vomited in a toilet.
The attacker was tried four times before being found guilty of attempted rape in April this year.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict on an additional rape charge and it was dropped.
The man was given a two-year suspended sentence in Victoria’s County Court. This allowed him to serve his sentence in the community.
“Trying to violate anyone, let alone such a vulnerable 13-year-old girl, is reprehensible,” Judge Scott Johns said.
“She was, and still is, deeply traumatized by your insult.”
Ms Claut remained silent until October 2016, when, ravaged by night terrors, she reported what had happened to the police.
She suffered from depression, anxiety, body dysmorphism and post-traumatic stress disorder for 22 years.
“There isn’t really a part of my life that hasn’t been touched by the attack,” Ms Claut said. “I don’t know what happened that night, but I woke up and thought ‘f*** it, I can’t do this anymore’.”
The police acted quickly. They instructed Mrs. Claut to call a “pretext.”
She contacted the man and told him that her name was Taryn and that she was friends with his sister. She then detailed the allegations.
“And then he just says, ‘well, if you say I did it, I did it, and I’m sorry,'” Mrs. Claut said.
“He was so nonchalant about such a massive accusation and it got me thinking – how many people has this happened to? Am I just a number?
“It just amazed me that someone could be so casual about it.”
Around this time, her mother revealed that the man had written to her in the mid-1990s to apologize for “what he did to Taryn.”
Mrs. McIntosh had never mentioned the letter to her daughter, but had chosen to put it in her trunk when Taryn seemed to have moved on.
Ms Claut (pictured) remained silent until October 2016 when she reported the rape to the police. For 22 years she suffered from depression, anxiety, body dysmorphism and post-traumatic stress disorder
She left it there for about six years, assuming the case would never be investigated.
‘I didn’t want to keep the letter in my possession, it was like poison. So I threw it away and I’m really sorry I did,” Ms. McIntosh said.
Ms. Clout also unearthed a 10-year personal reflection piece detailing what happened.
Victoria Police found the teacher who marked the essay and were willing to bring them forward as a witness.
All three pieces of evidence were approved at Ms Claut’s 2018 hearing, where the man was charged with raping and sexually penetrating a minor.
But none of them were allowed to be used as evidence in front of a trial jury.
It was just her word against his.
She sat through three jury trials from 2019 to 2021.
During a trial, the lawyer asked her if it was possible for his client to ‘fall on her’.
After the third trial delivered a firm verdict, prosecutors filed amended charges and the man was convicted of attempted rape.
“When I heard the sentence, I burst into tears,” said Mrs. Clout.
“I was so happy because it’s real — there are consequences for him.”
She believes that historical cases of rape and sexual assault should be dealt with in court-only trials, rather than before a jury.
But she encourages other survivors – both men and women – to come forward.
“Just make sure you have the right support systems because it’s a long, painful journey and the system can be stacked against you,” Ms Claut said.
“You may not get this great result like you see on Netflix, but if you stick with it, it’s possible.”
The Victorian Law Reform Commission is currently considering redress and alternative legal models for sex crimes.
The investigation must be reported by August 31.