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OPINION: No one wants to believe the evidence in our statistics

Monday 2 May 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion


OPINION: No one wants to believe the evidence in our statistics
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

A lawyer friend of mine swapped from prosecuting criminals to defending them.

His mother was mortified. She said he had gone to the dark side. I asked him about how to teach my children about stranger danger? He said that strangers aren't usually a risk to children and suggested that 95 percent of victims know their rapist or abuser.

They can be: school friends, friends of friends, daddys, grandpas, uncles, coaches, teachers, neighbours, church members, politicians and husbands.

The story of the 14-year-old girl who came to Rarotonga to live with a couple is proof of my friend's theory.

In the first days of her arrival the uncle subjects her to the first of four counts of sexual assault, leading on to three counts of an indecent act and two charges of rape over a four-month period.

She’s probably been told to be a good girl for the family who are going to look after her. Cook Islanders are taught to obey adults and not talk back or embarrass the family. 

What is she to do? What will her parents think? In the mind of a fourteen-year-old, scared, powerless and with nowhere to run to, imagine her fear and helplessness; Where to go? Who to trust? Initially she didn’t want to come forward as she was worried no one would believe her and people would think she was “telling lies”.

This girl had good school friends around her who eventually helped her find a professionally trained counsellor and school social worker.

Do other children know how to contact them? Do any adults reading this know the contact details for Victim Support?

Telling the police, she said “Having to say uncomfortable words and actions he’d done to me… saying those words out loud felt like millions of nails being pierced into my body.  I felt my heart shattered into pieces…”

Charges of rape were laid against Clarke In-Charge Tou.

He's given bail, free to roam under anonymity because the JP believes he won’t reoffend. The child is moved out of his home, so he couldn’t sneak into her bed anymore. While he has some minor restrictions the victim is already locked into an emotional cage. 

“I had disgusting flashbacks about that night whenever I’m trying to focus on my studies.”

Innocent until proven guilty – is the catch cry of defence lawyer Norman George who proceeds to treat the victim as guilty until proven innocent.

George enters a not guilty plea and immediately starts his bullying saying he and his client “want a fight” not justice, not fairness, not the truth – a fight.

We all know George uses aggressive emotive language and theatrics to confuse and gaslight the victim because the only reason a young girl would subject herself to this public trauma is because she’s a liar. “To give the descriptions she gave was so natural and explicit” he said. George, there is nothing natural about a grown man raping a 14-year-old in her own bed.

After George lost and Clarke-in-Charge Tou was found guilty, suddenly the rapist is remorseful, and wants to “express his sincere apology”, they all are after they're sentenced.

Before trial they’re arrogant, entitled and dismissive and “want a fight”.

Why should we believe a man who would rather put himself, his victim and partner under public spotlight, than admit to the crime. 

Or did George convince him he would win because it was the word of a girl against the great lawyer? 

The injustice against this girl continues. After a fair trial, the courageous child is refused her application to read her own victim statement directly to her rapist.

“I didn’t want this disgusting man to be the reason why I don’t want to live anymore.”

George complained, “it will result in a flood of emotional impact” and unduly influence the judge to impose a harsher sentence.

God forbid an innocent child should receive an opportunity for healing by confronting her rapist.

George then paints the victim as manipulative saying “Now (the victim) wants a second bite of the cherry”.

Justice Williams refused the girl because no law in the Cook Islands allowed it. Is there a law not allowing it? 

The crown didn’t see any legitimate reason why it shouldn’t be allowed.

What law would be broken if she read it?

More injustice when Chief Justice Williams commented: “These offences were a very significant breach of trust…the offences were repetitive and caused considerable amount of pain that will endure for many years to come. You used her body in many non-consensual and degrading ways”

He then only sentences Tou to nine years, not the Crown's recommended sentence of 12 years.

Cook Islands has historically always sentenced 30 per cent less than New Zealand, whose starting point for rape is 20 years.

Is there a law saying a judge can’t impose more?

Nine years is a joke.

He’ll probably get out on work detail, conjugal rights and mates rates earlier, while she has a life sentence of emotional trauma no one should have to deal with.

Rape and sexual assault start at home with family.

No one wants to believe the evidence in our statistics or to report a crime because of shame on the family name, forget about the abused child.

To all those who have been too afraid to speak, tell your story, or were simply told to ‘hush child’, I’m telling you, I’ll listen and I’ll tell your story if you want it told and when you think you're ready, because it needs to be heard. 

Every time a story is suppressed another child dies inside.

If you think no one cares you’re wrong, I care and so do others, including many good men.

It’s time to heal and get that festering burden off your chest, and be part of the wind of change. 

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