Imagine the fear. A young six and seven year old child, subjected to the most abhorrent and horrific acts of sexual violence, which continued for a number of years. A young girl, who stated in court that she was raped over 1000 times by her father and her uncle, and who also stated that she was filmed on some occasions while she was raped, and forced to watch the film.
It’s something that doesn’t bear thinking about. But we must think about it if society is ever going to confront the reality of the continuing cycle of sexual abuse.
The young girl in this case, now a woman, stood shaking in the dock of Coleraine court this month and recalled parties, where a number of men played cards as she was forced to sit in the corner with no clothes on.
“They played cards and the person with the highest number got to go first… with me.”
She also recalled how, at primary school age, her uncle and father subjected her to heinous abuse.
“They both took it in turns to rape me. I was crying, I asked them to stop but they laughed at me. They started doing it at the same time,” she said.
Both men, who cannot be named to protect the victims identites, are due to be sentenced in March, after being found guilty of 38 counts of abuse. A family friend was found not guilty by a jury of his peers in the same case.
There are questions to be raised about this case. The children told their mother about their abuse in 1997, and social services and the police were informed. A file was prepared for the then DPP, and they decided not to prosecute because in their view, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to achieve a “reasonable prospect of conviction.” The case went nowhere, until the victims again came forward with details years later and an investigation was reopened. How does that happen?
Both men had pleaded guilty to previous charges of abusing their own sister, which started when she was just four years old, and continued until she was nineteen. They pleaded not guilty in this instance, which ensured that the female victim had to take to the witness stand to relive her horrific ordeal.
It was a truly distressing case. The fact that young children can be abused in this way regularly, unnoticed, is nothing new. Shocking as that fact is, we all know it. More shocking though, is that two young children reported this abuse, and agencies failed them – sending out the message that they must have taken on board, that their evidence wasn’t strong enough, at that stage, to secure a conviction.
The real question though, is what did the agencies do after that point? Did they monitor, question further, provide support to the victims?
Had it not been for the tenacity of these victims in going back and reporting their abuse a second time, none of this would have seen the light of day. They are to be commended, for not only confronting their abuse, but for ensuring that their abusers were to be held accountable. It may be of little comfort to them due to what they have endured in the past, but the almost inevitable custodial sentence, and other avenues open to the court will ensure that child protective measures will be put in place in relation to these two individuals.
Justice has been a long time coming for the victims involved. It’s just such a pity that it wasn’t available to them when they reported it initially.