A young Australian woman who has made international headlines for defending herself in a domestic violence case—and subsequently placed on a travel ban with assault charges by the Icelandic court system—has had her case rejected by the Supreme Court of Iceland. In an interview with Grapevine, Nara shared her thoughts on the ruling and what her next steps will be.
Nara told Grapevine that she had been trapped in an abusive relationship with her now ex-husband for years. On the night in question, after an argument that broke out in their apartment in the presence of another woman and an American tourist, Nara says her ex grabbed her, forced himself upon her, and stuck his tongue in her mouth. On reflex, Nara bit down, removing roughly half his tongue.
She was subsequently charged with assault of both the ex and the other woman, and sentenced in Reykjavík District Court, later appealing it to the Appellate Court, which lengthened her sentence, despite her assertions of self-defence. The Appellate Court verdict came to the conclusion that her ex did not force himself on her, and that his injuries, whereby he can no longer talk or eat properly, were severe enough to warrant felony assault charges. The verdict also states they did not believe her response was done in self-defence. In a last-ditch effort, she appealed to the Supreme Court, but they have declined to hear her case.
“I’m very disappointed and disheartened by the ruling,” Nara told Grapevine. “I truly believed in the Icelandic justice system as Iceland is on the forefront for women’s rights and equality. I did not intend to injure anyone and with the ruling it implies I assaulted two people and disregards the years of abuse, my serious injuries and the violence brought upon me on the night that held me in a terrified state. This has crippled my current and future earnings as an international artist. The ruling, unless I take it further and clear my name, is a sentence that will hinder both my career and my physiological health. I have not been recognised as a victim of abuse and that displaces my working towards healing from the years of abuse.”
What is even more striking about this case is that the ex in question has admitted to abusive behaviour towards her. In copies of Facebook messages that Grapevine has received, and that were submitted as evidence in court, he has admitted to such behaviour as spiking her tea with LSD, and to have physically struck her. He also admitted to a number of these acts in court himself.
Police have yet to move forward with charges against him, which has been dispiriting for Nara, to put it mildly.
“Domestic violence leaves trauma as physical and psychological scars, it violates the fundamental rights of equality,” Nara tells Grapevine. “I feel my dignity was pulled apart by this man and now the lack of recognition within the justice system leaves me with a deeper disconnection to my rights.”
As such, Nara describes this “very difficult time” as one in which she does “not feel safe”, saying, “I suffer psychologically from the whole ordeal and years of abuse, I try to harness this energy to create art and to work towards the cause to empower women’s voices.”
Nara has vowed to continue to advocate for change. Part of this entails an online campaign using the hastag #systemfails, or #kerfiðbrást in Icelandic, which she has launched with Eydís Eir Brynju-Björnsdóttir. The aim of the campaign is to catalogue the experiences of survivors of rape and domestic violence and how the system has failed to serve them.
“I believe the subject of domestic violence and rights for self-defence should be significant within the law and I will continue to advocate for change,” Nara says.
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