'We have forgiven our child's rapists'

The family of a 14-year-old mentally challenged girl, who was allegedly repeatedly raped for months, says the 12 suspects have been forgiven, because six of the seven families that they belong to had apologised, and “things are back to normal”.

03 September 2020 | Crime

KENYA KAMBOWE

RUNDU



The police investigation into the case of a 14-year-old cognitively challenged girl from Rundu's Kaisosi location, who was allegedly repeatedly raped by 12 boys, is continuing, despite her family saying the suspects have been forgiven.

The alleged rapes occurred between 23 December 2019 and 13 May 2020, when the girl finally spoke out.

The suspects were arrested and subsequently released while police investigations continue.

They are aged 14 to 18. One of them is the girl's cousin and the others are her neighbours.

The complainant's cousin allegedly sneaked her out of the house at night, and the suspects took turns to rape her.

The complainant eventually told her mother, who had noticed behavioural changes in her daughter.

“I was so angry. I wanted to go and beat up those boys and thereafter go to call the Namibian Police Special Reserve to beat them up,” the complainant's father said.





The cousin confessed and gave the names of the other boys to the police, the father said.



Made peace

On Tuesday, the girl's family said six of the seven families that the suspects belong to had apologised.

“Things are back to normal, we only remembered about it when you showed up,” the family said.

“Soon after you published the first story, the families of the boys came to our house and asked for forgiveness. We informed them that it is okay and we forgave them but we cannot withdraw the case as it is a State case now.”

The family said they forgave the families of the suspects in order to restore the peace in their community.

“We did not even speak to each other despite us being family. Now things are back to normal and we are fine with each other,” the girl's family said. In June when contacted for comment, psychologist Shaun Whittaker said cases of disabled persons being exploited are not uncommon.

“It's unfortunate that this sexual violence is not uncommon. It is very common that special-needs children, more especially the female special child, are definite targets as men try and take advantage of them,” Whittaker said.

He added that these cases can leave families traumatised if they do not receive proper counselling.



PG must decide

Ingrid Husselmann, the children's advocate in the Office of the Ombudsman, said: “Basically, how it works with criminal cases is that the prosecutor-general is the only one who can decide whether or not to proceed with the prosecution.

“So, when people come and say they want to withdraw a case, it does not mean that the case will necessarily be withdrawn.”

Husselmann said in a case like this, where a child is involved, the prosecutor-general will generally not withdraw the charges if requested to do so by the parents.

“There is no way, especially when it comes to such a serious matter as the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl. So, in as far as that is concerned, I doubt it very much that the prosecutor-general will withdraw the case, even if they request that. With regard to the parents' attitude… a social worker from the ministry of gender should go and investigate the circumstances of that child, because it is the parents' duty to protect their children,” Husselmann added.

Human rights activist Rosa Namises said: “It is really sad. Any kind of sexual conduct with a minor falls under the Combating of Rape Act, whether it's one or 12 boys involved.”

She said the families who have supposedly reconciled have stripped the victim of her right to be protected by her family members.

“As a result, they [her family] have placed their relationship with their neighbours higher than their daughter's life and future, in terms of the impact that the gang rape will have on her. It is really a sad state of affairs when a girl is so unprotected and unsafe in our society… What they are also telling the 12 boys is that it was okay to rape this girl,” Namises said.

“So, when these young boys grow up, they may have been given the understanding that this gesture (an apology) is all they need to do to have a case like this withdrawn by a family. They will think they are right to rape mentally challenged girls. The boys must be shown what they did is wrong. They should appear in court and be treated as criminal suspects.”

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