Law catches rapist stepfather

2012-08-25 00:00

TWENTY-ONE years after two sisters were first sexually abused, their former stepfather has finally been brought to justice.

The Durban high court yesterday convicted the man on five charges — two of indecent assault, two of exposing minors to pornography and one of rape.

He was denied bail pending sentencing scheduled to take place between January 20 and 23 next year.

The abuse started in 1991 when the two victims were seven and eight years old and continued for about nine years until 2000, according to evidence. The man has since divorced the victims’ mother.

The reason the sisters decided to come forward to report the abuse was that they’d heard the man was planning to marry a woman who also had a young daughter.

The man was arrested in 2010 when he returned to South Africa from the United Kingdom.

Jo-Ann Downs, member of the KZN legislature and chair of the African Christian Democratic Party, yesterday hailed the landmark judgment as a victory for all women who have been victims of rape, abuse and incest.

“It should serve as a reminder that the law will eventually catch up with perpetrators of sexual crimes,” said Downs.

In a statement earlier this month Downs cited the fact that more women in South Africa have been raped than the number of people killed in the Syrian and Libyan civil wars combined.

“This is a shocking testimony to the state of our nation and along with measures to address this systemic problem, more convictions like this one need to be made,” Downs said.

South Africa has the highest number of declared rapes in the world, with Interpol reporting that a woman is raped every 17 seconds in South Africa, that one in every two South African women will be raped at some stage during their lifetime and that half of these women are under 18 years old.

Jackie Branfield, founder director of Operation Bobbi Bear, whose mission is to rescue and uphold the rights of sexually abused children, said she was “thrilled” by news of the conviction.

“Today justice has been seen to be done by rape victims,” she said.

She pointed out that in terms of SA law victims have 30 years to report sexual crimes, but said it is seldom that adults come forward, mainly due to the shame they feel, especially if they have children. “When you are sexually abused as a child you never get over it,” said Branfield.

She commended the two sisters for their bravery in speaking out about the abuse.

“They are my heroes,” she said.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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