- Lyndon Montgomery was found not guilty of breaking and entering Holly Harris’ home and raping her.
- Harris spoke to Insider about why she decided to speak publicly about the case.
- “I just refuse to accept that this is the reality for women,” Harris said.
When Holly Harris woke up, she was freezing cold. The sliding door in her bedroom was ajar, which surprised her. She never slept with the door open, especially on a cold September night in Melbourne, Australia.
When she sat up, she realized she was naked, her hair matted, and she was in pain. She looked to the left and saw a man lying there. His name is Lyndon Montgomery.
Nearly four years later, on September 7, Montgomery was found not guilty of breaking into Harris’s home and raping her.
In her first interview since the tense trial, Harris spoke to Insider about the impact of the case on her and why she decided to identify herself.
Harris’s name does not appear in any of the previous stories about her case because she did not consent to its publication. Under Victorian law, which applies to the Australian state in which she resides, it is an offense to publish information that could lead to the identification of a person alleged to have been charged with a sexual offense, but an adult complainant may agree their own identities.
After the verdict, Harris changed her mind about not being identified, wanting other women who may have gone through something similar to not feel ashamed.
“I simply refuse to accept that this is the reality for women and that it is devastating for other women who have been raped or allegedly raped,” she told Insider.
‘I have done the most heinous’
On September 23, 2018, Harris went out with friends to a local bar on Melbourne’s Chapel Street. Before arriving at the bar, she said she had quite a few drinks at a friend’s boyfriend and continued drinking with friends at the bar until she got drunk. Her memory after this, she told Insider, isn’t so clear.
As she left the bar, friends reported that she got into an Uber with her best friend, her best friend’s boyfriend, and Montgomery – an acquaintance. When Harris arrived outside her home, she said she remembered getting out of the car, walking to her door, and noticing Montgomery following her.
She said she asked him what he was doing and he told her he took her to her door. According to Harris, after they exchanged a few words—which included him declaring his love for her—she said she wasn’t interested, took her leave, and locked the door behind her.
Harris said her nightly routine always consists of taking a shower before bed, which is what she said she did on this particular night. At one point, she said she turned around and saw Montgomery standing in the bathroom. That’s when she told him to get out, she said. Harris told Insider that her memory is limited after this point, but she remembered Montgomery on top of her in her bed. Later, in court, Montgomery did not dispute that they had sex, but testified that it was consensual.
After waking up confused the next morning with Montgomery lying next to her, Harris said she asked him to leave, which he did. That morning she told her friends what had happened.
At their insistence, Harris went to the hospital later that night, only to be told she could not be seen. She said the emergency doctor’s reasoning was that she was a “crime scene,” meaning the medical professionals didn’t want to interfere with a potential criminal investigation. At the time, she had no plans to press charges, Harris said, adding that she only wanted help because she was in pain.
Four days later, she received a text from Montgomery.
In the text, which was obtained by Insider, he said, “I’ve done the most heinous thing you can do to a woman, and I’ve done it to you. It was never my intention for things not to be consensual.” “I should have realized what you told me, but I didn’t.”
‘Open, close, guilty’
Harris was then 19 years old. At first she wasn’t sure if she wanted to press charges. That changed a few weeks later when Montgomery started telling people his version of what happened that night, she said.
Harris went to Victoria Police and after some persuasion, the police had her call on a pretext – a recorded conversation used in sexual assault investigations. The calls have drawn criticism from lawyers who say the practice could be traumatic for sexual assault survivors, according to The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
In the phone call between Harris and Montgomery, he admitted entering Harris’s house through her sliding door, but claimed the sex was consensual, according to The Herald Sun, a Melbourne newspaper.
At trial, Montgomery gave the court his account of what happened that night, saying he believed things were “flirty” between him and Harris at the bar. He testified that when the Uber they took together arrived at Harris’ house, he walked her to her door and she told him she “wanted [it] happen” but was unsure because she was in a relationship. According to Montgomery, they went into the house together, but Harris soon asked him to leave, which he did. “I really felt like we had this good and emotional connection together and I wanted to talk to her about that,” he said.
He said he saw a sliding door to Harris’s bedroom and checked to make sure it wasn’t locked: “So it was I went in.”
Montgomery claimed he knocked on Harris’s bathroom door, where he heard Harris take a shower, and “she said yes, you can come in.” He said they showered together afterwards before returning to the bedroom where they had consensual sex, according to The Herald Sun.
Montgomery said sending the text message was a mistake and that he sent it to appease Harris in an attempt to keep her from going to the police, according to the outlet.
The Herald Sun reported that his lawyer, Belinda Frajic, claimed that Harris’s memory of the night was “patchy” due to her degree of intoxication. Franjic also asked the jury not to jump to conclusions about the text message.
“It’s easy to read a text like that and say ‘open, shut, guilty,'” Franjic said in court, according to the newspaper.
The Herald Sun also reported that Franjic asked the jury to ignore the “current climate” around consent and women’s safety.
Franjic did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
‘I just refuse to accept that this is the reality for women’
During the three-week trial, Harris was tense and anxious. She said her Apple Watch alerted her that her resting heart rate had dropped from 60 beats per minute to 83 beats per minute.
Harris was not in court during the trial and gave her testimony virtually on the advice of her legal team, but in retrospect she said she regretted doing so. She told Insider that she wished she had stood before the 12-member jury.
“Having someone sit in front of you and tell them the worst thing that ever happened to them often has more impact in person,” she said.
When the not guilty verdict was announced, the 23-year-old said she was devastated but not surprised. “It was kind of a crushing reality,” she told Insider. “I think this outcome said it doesn’t matter how much evidence you have. It’s never going to be enough if you have a rich, white boy from a private school standing there with the best lawyer money can buy,” she said .
Harris said she believes her case is an example of how women are expected to be the perfect victim when making allegations of sexual assault. Despite all the evidence presented in court — her hospital visit, the pretext phone call, and Montgomery’s text — it still wasn’t enough to convince the jury. Harris worries that her case may discourage others with less evidence from coming forward.
“There’s no responsibility in that and men will continue to think they can get away with it and that’s so not okay,” she said. “That’s what I want to change somehow. I have no idea how, but if only by talking about it.”
Harris is currently studying law at university. After her experience of the Australian legal system, she said her desire to become a criminal lawyer was tainted.
“I imagine it would be very difficult to take on such a broken system and work in it every day. I think it would be quite exhausting, even if you tried to do the right thing,” she said .
The outcome of the case has sparked outrage from a number of Australians, including Clementine Ford, a writer who posted a video on her Instagram about the verdict. “You are so strong that you have resisted the justice system and every way it disempowered survivors. I think you are incredible. I am so sorry you were let down. I believe you,” Ford said.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) or visit his website to get confidential support.