|Child rights activists have reacted with outrage to their ruling, made |
on the eve of Child Protection Week this week. File photo
The rape of a little boy could not be "considered as falling at the most heinous end of the scale of child rape" because there were no physical injuries, according to two judges.
Does this sound familiar? Just two weeks ago I posted a story from Argentina in which two judges reduced the sentence of a rapist because his 6 year old victim showed signs of being gay. What's going on? Is there an ozone hole in the southern hemisphere that is affecting judgement, common sense and decency?
So what this judgment signals is that it is better to rape a child of 3 than a child of 8!
This was the reasoning of judges Owen Rogers and Anton Veldhuizen in reducing the two life sentences the man - himself a child victim of sexual assault - had been given to an effective 13 years.
Child rights activists have reacted with outrage to their ruling, made on the eve of Child Protection Week this week. Good start, thank you, your Honour.
The judgment was handed down in the Cape Town High Court last week after the man appealed against his sentence for raping a three-year-old and an eight-year-old.
The man admitted to ordering a three-year-old boy - his sister-in-law's son - to perform oral sex on him, and to inserting his finger into an eight-year-old girl's private parts.
The judges reasoned that because of his "tender age" the boy did not understand what was happening to him and "thus did not experience the horror and disgust an older child might have felt".
The counselling the boy was receiving might leave him "largely unscathed" by the rape, the judges said. Their judgment follows a scathing report by the Centre for Child Law that severely criticised the Justice Department for ignoring a six-year-old Constitutional Court order to bring in line measures that would safeguard children who were witnesses to, or victims of, sexual assault.
The centre found that some courts still do not have one-way mirrors, CCTV systems, dedicated intermediaries and separate testifying or waiting rooms. This means that in some cases victims or witnesses are left to wait in the courts' passages.
In some cases one-way mirrors are shared by courts or are not fitted properly. Some courts still do not have separate toilets for children.
Effects related to age
A social worker's report to the Cape Town High Court said the three-year-old boy had not become "less playful" as a result of the assault but there "might" be a negative effect on his social development.
The effects on the eight-year-old girl were more evident.
She was "anxious, tense and tearful" when asked about the assault. "She felt shame" and avoided contact with men. She also showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Joan van Niekerk, president of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, expressed concern that the judges had made assumptions about the effects on the boy that "only trivialise the abuse".
The judges' comments about the seriousness of the rapes was unacceptable, said Van Niekerk.
Victim becomes abuser
The rapist's background points to what Dr Shaheda Omar, of the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, calls an "inter-generational cycle of violence" in which "victims become victimisers".
The rapist came from a single-parent household, was blind in the left eye and had often been bullied at school.
From the age of eight he was sexually abused by friends.
"These circumstances, coupled with the absence of a father figure, are likely to have played their part in producing an adult exhibiting deviant sexual behaviour," the judges said.
In 2003, the man was sent to prison for indecently assaulting two girls, aged four and five.
"The prison system, seems to have failed [the man] badly. Instead of rehabilitation he was terrorised, assaulted by a fellow prisoner, which caused his blindness," said the judges.
As much as I want to feel sorry for this guy for an exceedingly dreadful childhood, my sympathies are far more bent toward the victims of his abuse, current, past and future. To allow him to walk out of jail in a few years, when you know the prison system has just made him worse, is reckless and moronic.