'I was raped whilst doing my job': Canberra sex worker speaks of violent attack

For 15 minutes last May, the woman was utterly convinced she was going to die.

A man had stormed into the apartment in Canberra's inner north where the pair arranged to meet and threatened her with a box cutter as he demanded she hand over cash.

When she didn't give him money, he forced sex instead.

The woman, who was a sex worker, gave an unflinching account of the violent ordeal and its aftermath in an extraordinarily powerful victim impact statement read by a prosecutor in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday.

"Last year, something horrible happened to me," she began.

She spoke of the sheer terror of having the blade held in front of her and not knowing whether he would use it to slice her skin, or whether he could be reasoned with, or if she would make it out alive.

"I have never felt fear like that in my life."

That was before he began to sexually assault her.

Since the attack, she often spiralled into a black pit of nerves, anxiety and panic attacks and struggled to maintain a grip on her "full" life that included sex work, study, volunteer work and a relationship.

"I'm a strong person, but I'm not the same person I was."

Unexpected triggers often sent her mind racing back to that night; such as the time a removalist used the same colour box cutter her attacker held to her throat, or when her boyfriend would hug her tightly with affection and not let go.

"It reminds me of being stuck in that apartment and I feel the same feelings of being trapped and helpless."

She spoke of feeling like a failure because she'd fallen behind in her studies, her sense of isolation at not being able to talk to her family about the attack, and her inability to read stories about sexual assault.

"I'm reminded with a hollow feeling in my stomach, that that is me. I am a victim now, too. I'm angry that I've been turned into a statistic."

She felt there was more shame and stigma given she was raped while she was doing her job.

"I love my job and I'm proud of the business I have grown. I work in a legitimate, legal industry."

Pervasive misconceptions around sex work often suggested workers were culpable or an "easy target" of sexual assault or that "consent doesn't mean the same for us - that's it's not really rape".

She said those thoughts were wrong.

"Because what happened to me wasn't my fault. And what happened to me is not normal. I'm a sex worker but I'm also a human being.

"I am not an easy target and I am deserving of respect."

The man who raped her, Ahmed Al Abbasi, 32, and his younger brother Mohammad Alabbasi, 22, pleaded guilty to offences arising from two separate attacks on sex workers at apartments in Reid and Braddon in 2016.

One female sex worker was raped while another woman was in the room after Ahmed booked an appointment and his brother also showed up in Reid on March 13.

In the second attack, police said Ahmed raped the woman after she accepted a booking for a half-hour service in a Braddon hotel on May 10. His brother had driven him to the hotel.

Ahmed Alabbasi, also named as Khaled Al Abbasi in court documents, pleaded guilty to two counts of third degree rape, two charges of rape in company, attempted rape in company, rape and aggravated robbery.

Mohammad Alabbasi pleaded guilty to two counts of third degree rape, two charges of rape in company and aggravated robbery.

Prosecutor Sara Gul described Ahmed as the "ringleader" in the "absolutely terrifying" attacks. She said such crimes should never be tolerated against any person, regardless of their profession or the way they earned their money.

"Everybody deserves to feel safe at work," she said.

Mohammad's defence lawyer said his client "wholly and substantially admits to the offence in question", but argued he had been a "submissive player".

The court heard Ahmed became "instantly hooked" on ice after a gym friend offered him some and committed the crimes to repay a drug debt.

"He has a deep sense of shame and sorrow for what he's done," his lawyer said.

Justice David Mossop will sentence the men on Tuesday.

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