The reasons and motivation given by the Supreme Court of Appeal for the reduction of the sentence of the rapist of a 15 year old child by her step father is of huge concern, and cannot go unchallenged.
Whilst one accepts the ruling of the court, it is none the less outrageous that the court uses the acceptance of gifts as an indication that the child allowed the sex in anticipation of gifts! What else could this child be expected to do other than accept these ‘gifts’? The court failed to consider the unequal power and control that this parent obviously had over this child and the fact that he was a step-parent, which probably meant that she was dependant on his goodwill and tolerance for her care, custody and maintenance. She would therefore have felt constrained not to call attention to his evil deed without putting the entire family’s well-being at risk. Does this make her complicit? This thinking blames the victim for the transgression, and comes down to what is sometimes referred to as secondary victimization.
The court failed to consider that children oft –times ‘freeze up’ in the face of implied violence, the physiology of fear results in the inability of the body to respond to certain messages of the brain – thus no crying or screaming! Children cannot assess a situation in terms of the degree of potential risks - threats of violence to a child are real – they cannot determine whether they are meaningless or what the degree of probability is! There is enough research and writings showing the responses children have when dealing with threats to their wellbeing by powerful and controlling adults.
The fact that no explicit words of violence were uttered by this despicable adult does not eradicate the impact of his earlier threats of violence when perpetrating the same vile deed on this defenseless child.
The court failed to consider the impact that this outrageous act would have on this child, for life. This judgment will affect how future cases of this nature are dealt with. It is not at all welcomed by NICRO.