DIRTY SECRET OF RAPE
By AZARD ALI Wednesday, June 27 2012
THE courage of a young woman in exposing to a magistrate her “deep secrets” of having been raped when she was nine years old, resulted in her mother being sent to jail yesterday.
Magistrate Alicia Chankar found the mother guilty in the San Fernando Magistrates’ Court for failing to report to police that her daughter had been raped.
The mother beat the girl when she complained in 2003 about the man who had sexually abused her at their home in south Trinidad. The victim is now 18 years old.
In sending the 50-year-old mother to jail for nine months, Chankar said, “What I found was that the child purged herself of deep, dirty secrets of her childhood. Her coming to court is the beginning of her healing. The voice of the child needs to be heard.”
The mother of seven was charged in October, last year, of knowing her daughter had been raped but failed to report the matter to the police.
The case of having knowledge of a sexual offence involving a child under a person’s control and failing to act was the first of its kind pursued by the police under Section 31 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act.
The section states, “Any person who is a parent or guardian of a minor, or has actual custody, charge or control, or who has reasonable ground for believing that a sexual offence has been committed in respect of that minor, shall report the grounds for his/her belief to a police officer as soon as is reasonably practicable.”
The Act stipulates that a person who fails to comply is liable on summary conviction, to a fine of $15,000 and/or a term of imprisonment of seven years. In addition to the jail term, Chankar also ordered the mother to pay a fine of $5,000 or serve six months simple imprisonment.
The trial of the mother began before Chankar on October 3, 2011.
During the continuation of the trial on June 5, the teenage victim testified about being raped when she was nine by a male relative, who was 20 years old, in 2003. Her mother was not at home, so the girl told a cousin what had happened. The cousin told the girl’s mother about the incident. Instead of making a report to the police, the woman beat her daughter, who, after she got the licks, went into her room and fell asleep.
In was not until 2008 that the police intervened in the matter and a warrant was taken out for arrest of the mother.
In the trial, the girl’s sister, who is 28 years old, an aunt, WPC Noel, who laid the charge, and PC Marlon Stoute, who executed the warrant on the mother, testified. The mother, who was defended by attorney Michelle Rampaul, gave evidence and denied she knew anything about her daughter being raped.
Chankar fixed yesterday for giving her decision and prefaced her ruling by saying that she believed the evidence of the daughter.
In finding the mother guilty, the magistrate said the case was one in which a child turned to her mother for protection, but she turned a blind eye.
Chankar said,“What I found was the girl turned to her mother for solace, but instead she was chastised emotionally and physically. The girl was robbed of the innocence of her childhood. A child bequeaths innocence and no child should have to lose their innocence. What I found was that the child purged herself of deep, dirty secrets of her childhood.
“As a young woman, she now has to learn to heal from within, and coming to court is the beginning of her healing. Under the rights of the child, they have the right to be loved, the right not to be exposed to abuse, and the right to be protected. A mother serves as protector and as parents, we have a duty to care for our children.”
Rampaul had made a plea in mitigation on the mother’s behalf, saying that she had six other children, between ages 16 and 30, and a clean criminal record. The mother earned her livelihood as a gardener, the attorney added. The teenager was not present in court for yesterday’s sentencing and Sgt Russell Ramoutar, who prosecuted the case, did not respond to the mitigation plea.
Chankar made a call for the introduction of a child advocate, as obtains in the United States, who would be present to counsel children when they have to subject themselves to court proceedings. She said the cut and thrust of criminal proceedings in the magistrates’ court were difficult for children.
Chankar said, “There is need for a child advocate in court matters involving young children, to have someone seek the interest of the child. The courtroom is an unfriendly place for a juvenile and the setting is difficult for a child to deal with when they have to give evidence.”
For the sentence, the mother stood up from the bench she was sitting on and Chankar ordered that she pay a fine of $5,000. She granted the woman one year to pay or serve six months simple imprisonment. The magistrate then ordered the mother to serve nine months in jail of simple imprisonment.
The mother was led away by a police officer. Commenting on the outcome, Rampaul said, “I agree with the magistrate that there is need for a child advocate. Children need to be counselled when they find themselves in such environments as the court. The cut and thrust of criminal proceedings is no place for a child.”