27 October, 2020 Mulinuu Court, Apia Samoa. The assessor trial of a step-father accused of sexual connection and indecent acts against his step-daughter started yesterday in the Supreme Court of Samoa before Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.
The victim, 7 years old at the time of the alleged offending, took the stand to describe what she says had taken place in September last year.
“He called me to come with him to fetch some coconuts” (Sa fogo mai ia lale ma ke o e fai mai gi popo).
The victim told the Court that when they reached a bushy area, her step-father told her to come and sit on his lap and when she did, he penetrated her with his fingers.
She said the defendant had brought some tree branches (lalā faapasī) and lay it on the ground, asking her to take off her clothes and lie down.
With her obvious limited vocabulary to explain the sexual acts, the victim describes her step-father performing oral sex on her ‘for a long time’ (e ‘umi lava).
The victim said the defendant then stood her up and held her by the neck as he forced himself into her mouth. The 8 year old said salty fluid had then caused her vomit.
The victim’s grandmother took the stand and said she had noticed a change in her usually vibrant granddaughter, when they had come to stay with her in October last year after her daughter was beaten by her husband, the defendant.
“I noticed that my granddaughter was not happy and sometimes she would vomit. She even forgot how to read her ABC, and often, she would just sit there and stare…. that is when I asked her if something had happened.”
She said Korama Tafola Eli of Neiafu Savaii was a faifeau tala’i in 2014 when he met the victim’s mother who had two daughters from her first marriage.
The grandmother told the Court that the defendant moved her daughter and her children from their village in Upolu, to Neiafu. She said would often visit Savaii and stay for 2 to 3 days at time, concerned for her children because of the abusive attitude of the defendant.
“Na ou vaai i le leaga o le mea e nonofo ai si au fanau, o le ala lea ou te alu ai e asi ma ave ipu, o le fala saina, ogaumu ma se tapoleni ona e tutulu le fale e nonofo ai.”
During cross examination defense Counsel Masoe Charlie Vaai referred to an earlier complaint, lodged by the grandmother against her own previous husband, for acts towards the victim.
In response, the grandmother laid blame on the defendant and said Karoma did not like her husband, and instigated that complaint, claiming it was frivolous and unsubstantiated.
The victim’s mother also took the stand, but supported her husband’s not guilty position.
Outside Court the victim’s mother told Samoa Global News that her mother had never liked her husband, and this was all a scheme to put blame on her husband. She believed that her mother had poisoned her daughter, telling her what to say.
The trial continues today with evidence from a doctor and witnesses for the defense.
Justice Tafaoimalo granted name suppression to the victim which does not extend to the defendant.