‘Teenager had signs of rape trauma’

2013-04-10 00:00

A TEENAGER who has charged a local church youth leader with rape displayed classic symptoms of “rape trauma syndrome” during counselling, a clinical psychologist told the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court yesterday.

Psychologist Jill Willows was giving evidence for the state at the trial of Owen Pillay (24), of Northdale.

Pillay has pleaded not guilty before magistrate Rose Mogwera, to raping a 13-year-old girl in the grounds of Woodlands High School on August 29, 2011.

Willows told Mogwera that she counselled the teenager between January and October last year.

“She seemed to be carrying a sense of guilt and responsibility. She felt she was somehow to blame and that she was causing trouble for other people … She worried about the impact on others in the church community.”

Willows said signs of rape trauma syndrome include hyper-vigilance as victims cannot relax, having trouble sleeping and losing their appetite; they experience flashbacks when an image sparks a sense of panic and they feel as if their ordeal is happening all over again; and they avoid anything that reminds them of the incident.

For example, the girl had worn a brown dress when the alleged rape happened and since then had not been able to wear brown again. She had left the church.

She had become withdrawn, disliked going out and lost interest in dressing up. Her school marks had dropped, she was frequently absent from school and her school counsellor reported that she had lost her “vibrancy and sparkle”.

Willows said the girl had looked up to the accused as a youth leader. She had told Willows that towards the end of her Grade 7 year, Pillay had asked for her number on MXit and they exchanged messages on the social network.

At first she had felt she was receiving spiritual guidance, but Pillay started to comment on her appearance, and once allegedly remarked that she “looked sexy” in church. This made her uncomfortable. “It culminated in him sending her a naked picture … as a result she deleted him from MXit herself,” said Willows.

She said the teenager had reported to an older woman in the church that the accused was sending her inappropriate messages, but she never heard anything more about it. This could explain why she reported the rape only several weeks after it happened.

“She felt she had spoken before and not been believed or taken seriously,” Willows said.

A doctor testified yesterday that when she examined the teenager she had found healed injuries consistent with sexual penetration.

The case was postponed to April 30 for further evidence.

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