It's official, Mr "Prominent Man" was not convicted of indecent acts towards the two girls who said that he repeatedly touched them in their sexual and private parts - their groins, bums and breasts. He was not convicted of pressing his penis into one of the girls backs. He was not convicted of forcing one of the girls to touch his penis, by pressing her foot into it. He was charged with 12 indecent acts - four against a child, and eight against a young person.
The jury struggled to decide, and the reasons for that, of course, are not clear. In a case like this, there's no forensic proof, no swooping in of science to prove the girls are telling the truth.
The girls said they wanted it to stop. That's why they told a social worker back in 2014.
They wanted it to stop.
Mr "Prominent Man"'s defence was very simple. The girls were "lying." They "had their reasons."
See, here's the thing. I don't believe you, Mr "Prominent Man." I think you were grooming the girls so you could keep sexually abusing them. I think that's why you were buying them things. I think it was going to get worse - as one girl said, she was scared you were going to rape her - and I think the best outcome of this whole travesty is that the girls actually got it to stop. And not only that, because everyone knows who you are, I'm hopeful you'll never be allowed anywhere near children - of any gender - ever again, because those around you, even if they care about you, will be wondering, just wondering, and won't want another child to be hurt by you.
I know many people reading this blog will instinctively understand this, because we know how child sexual abuse works. But some won't. You might have never talked to or been a survivor of child sexual abuse. You might want to believe Mr "Prominent Man" because it's a nicer world to believe in, the world where children lie about being sexually abused and nice, prominent men just wouldn't do that. For those people, I'm going to spell some stuff out.
Expecting young people to have clear memories of events at least two years ago (probably longer), when those events are traumatic is ridiculous. So using "inconsistencies" in their recollections, as the Defence Counsel did, repeatedly, to "prove" they are "lying" is ridiculous. Trauma messes with memory.
But it's all Mr "Prominent Man" had. He couldn't say he didn't know the girls, because clearly, whatever their relationship is, there was no doubt he knew them. And it's not like our justice system doesn't know in these kinds of situations how difficult proof can be. In 2009, research asked New Zealand Police and Crown Prosecutors:
‘If you had a close friend or family member who was a victim of sexual violence, would you recommend they go through the criminal justice system?’41% of Police said no, or they didn't know, if they would recommend going through our criminal justice system. Those who were unsure talked about being happier to recommend if the sexual violence corresponded to rape myths (stranger, violent etc).
I wouldn’t put myself through this and certainly would let a friend or family know how degrading it is and that they will be revictimised and the chances of a guilty verdict are very, very low. (Police)As for Crown Prosecutors, those responsible for arguing that sexual violence has occurred? 61% of them said no, or they didn't know, if they would recommend going through our criminal justice system. As with the Police, those who were unsure stressed they would be more likely to recommend for stranger rapes.
In my view the process for complainants in sexual violence cases is brutal, every aspect of the complainant’s character and conduct is questioned and exposed, and the likely outcome is not guilty. (Crown prosecutor)Both the Police and Crown Prosecutors in this research talked about how seldom juries believe teenagers, and that any small inconsistency is deliberately blown up by defence lawyers to "prove" dishonesty.
So I ask you, New Zealand, who do you believe? People working in our criminal justice system, who say our system is so broken, they wouldn't send their own family members there? Two girls, with nothing to gain but stopping themselves being groped and forced to touch an adult man's penis?
I know who I believe. Whangarei District Court, you've disappointed us. Let's hope the community does better at keeping Mr "Prominent Man" away from children in the future.
And girls - you rock. You made him stop.