I Know What You Did That Summer and Now So Does Everybody Else

In December 2018 I sat down one Friday night to work on my latest novel. Instead of the next chapter of THE MYTHIC AND THE ROSETTA ENGINE, what poured out was a 2,000 word disclosure, springing up from deep within me.

“I was sexually assaulted by James Wallace. It happened in his sprawling historical home in Epsom known as Rannoch.”

The assault was an event that took place in the early 2000s. I buried it. Every time it drifted into my mind—or was thrust there when I saw Wallace’s name or worse, his picture, in the media—I shoved it back down into the darkness. Given the prominence of #MeToo from 2017 when I read countless stories that sounded hauntingly like mine on a daily basis, I was forced to swallow the existence of my own experience over and over.

In fact, Wallace did not “sexually” assault me, at least not according to local criminal law. After I went to the police I learned it was “indecent” assault. The base definition of the word “indecent” includes meaning something “morally offensive”, “grossly improper”, and “unseemly”. These all fit Wallace’s actions towards me that night and, indeed, the man himself.

I would later learn Wallace, a very wealthy arts patron, had a reputation for impropriety, but I did not know this at the time I met him. I did know that I did not like him. My immediate impression was that he was arrogant, snooty, and deeply creepy. I did not want to engage with him but I was seeking funding for a fledgling charitable foundation and had been tasked by my employer to obtain Wallace’s patronage. I had conceived of this foundation and I was keen to see it succeed. So I ignored my unease.

Looking back I wish I had listened to the reservations in the back of his mind, that this man was murky, that I should disengage from negotiations. I regretted putting myself in that position, regretted not going to the authorities immediately after the assault, of trying to simply move on, of not warning others about who Wallace truly was.

However, as my case along with that of two other victims—who in early 2019 I would learn had already accused Wallace of assault and who precipitated my coming forward—moved through the justice system my regret morphed into other feelings. Into anger at what he had done. Into sadness, anxiety, and depression over the experience of testifying in court. Into relief when the jury returned a guilty verdict. Into frustration as Wallace used the system to keep himself out of prison and his name hidden from the public. Into disbelief when he exhausted his options and was finally named. And now, hopefully, into healing and moving on.

Victims of crimes here are given name suppression, which can be permanent. However, I chose to have my suppression lifted and to be interviewed by the New Zealand Herald, which has been published today. I did this to own my journey, to drag everything into the open once and for all so that I could draw a line under it in the hopes I can finally move on.

Back in 2018 I concluded my initial piece like this:

“I’m still scared. But courage does not come from not feeling fear, it comes from overcoming fear. Fear loves the darkness. And it loves silence. So it is time for light.”

I was slightly optimistic then. Dawn was some time away. Years away. But now I do finally feel the start of brand new morning.

I will be writing more about this because the process of putting words on the page, or at least screen, is cathartic for me. After so many years of pretending this assault didn’t happen I have much to unpick.

But for now I want to share my Victim Impact Statement, a document the court has victims prepare to assist the judge in applying an appropriate punishment for offenders. I read this in court at Wallace’s sentencing hearing in May 2021 and I feel it adequately sums up my rage, my sadness, and the overall experience of being a victim. I feel a lot less like a victim these days. And that’s a very good feeling.

Arohanui. With much love.



Mr Wallace said in court that he did not remember meeting me.

I, however, have never forgotten what happened that night and I have relived it dozens of times over the past twenty years.

I relived it daily at work for weeks following the assault. I met with him not to benefit myself, but on behalf of the New Zealand Writers Foundation, a fledgling charitable organisation, one I had conceived, one I hoped would transform screenwriting education in Aotearoa. Imagine then the excitement I took into Rannoch with me that night and the horror when, instead of leaving feeling success, I escaped, physically sore from being groped and scratched, panicked from having fought off Mr Wallace’s advances. I told no one then, having to pretend that I was proud of having secured Rannoch for the Foundation’s launch. I lived with the assault alone, unable to say anything because I knew it would derail his support, support the Foundation sorely needed.

That pattern, of remembering followed by suppression, would continue for almost two decades.

The launch event at Rannoch several months later meant I had to return to the site where I was assaulted, forced to interact politely with my attacker. Every subsequent day that I worked to build the Foundation, over months and ultimately years, only reminded me of that awful night. Mr Wallace and the Foundation became inexorably linked together in my mind. Over time he came to poison my passion the Foundation, and eventually of the New Zealand Writers Guild, the organisation from which the Foundation had grown. Everything associated with what put me in that house that night turned to ashes in my mind. These days I cannot think of either organisation without it conjuring up what Mr Wallace did to me.

I relived that night every time I saw Mr Wallace’s name mentioned—and remember that for most of my career I have worked in arts based industries—at work, in media pieces profiling him or Rannoch, always mentioning what a wonderful place it was, what a wonderful man he was.

I relived it every time the subject of a sexually based assault came up in the media or was brought up in conversation. With the MeToo movement I was confronted with those memories almost every day. Every report took me back to that house, reminded me of the feeling of those bizarre hugs, with his body pressed against mine, of that look on his face as he pursued me around that dank manor, the shock of being pounced upon, the smell of his breath as I struggled to peel him off me, the feeling of his hand in my underpants.

Mr Wallace’s continued denial of his guilt has forced me to describe that night, again and again and again, including during the court process. Even writing this statement has put me back in that house on that night. Reliving that trauma over the past two years has caused me extreme anxiety, sadness, and bouts of depression.

We have called the current movement ‘MeToo’ which implies there is a ‘We’. But when you are contemplating going to the Police to report an assault, when you are picked apart in court and labelled a liar, a failure bent on revenge, a fantasist, and an opportunist, when it is 2:00AM two weeks after the trial and you are suffering yet another bout of insomnia and the memories of what happened bubble up from the swamp, it is the loneliest thing in the world. There is no ‘Too’ here, only the ‘Me’.

To Mr Wallace

I imagine you will try to rely on your philanthropy to ameliorate the guilty verdict. I do not care what else you have done. No amount of charitable work will outweigh what you did to me that night.

Some people will think that I must forgive you in order to move on. However, I do not forgive you. I only hope one day time will allow me to forget you.