3 December 2022 Apia Samoa. After a two-day hearing in the Supreme Court of Samoa a panel of five assessors found a father in his 40s guilty of raping his 14 year old daughter in February of 2020.
The victim was the eldest of the defendant’s three children. He has a younger daughter who was 10 at the time, and a son who was 8 sleeping nearby as he raped his eldest, the Court has found.
The case was heard before Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren on the same week Samoa was engaging in 16 Days of Activism parades, roadshows and activities across the country.
On Wednesday morning 30th December 2022, Supreme Court No 1 was empty. Other than the judge, jury, registrars and lawyers, only one elderly aunt of the accused sat at the back of the courtroom.
“The boy is my cousin’s son,” she says of the defendant who is in his 40s. “But the right thing must be done.” (O le tamaititi o le atalii o lo’u tausoga… ae tatau lava ona fai le mea sa’o”)
When the 14 year old victim walked into the courtroom to give evidence, there was a large screen placed infront of her father’s seat in the defendant’s box, so the victim did not have to see her rapist.
After recounting and reliving the night of 01st February 2020, the young girl, now 16 years old, had to identify her father in the Courtroom. So the screen was removed momentarily as the Prosecutor put the question to her.
“Do you see the man who raped you inside this Courtroom? Is he here? Can you point to him?”
“He’s over there…”
“Where over there? There are many people there. You have to point to him..”
Justice Tafaoimalo nods sternly towards the lawyers, to indicate her satisfaction that the witness has identified the defendant and the young girl is relieved from the burden of pointing towards her own Dad in Court.
Young rape victims are made to explicitly explain the actions of their rapists, and depending on the evidence or what Counsels are trying to establish or discredit, that information may vary, but it is always graphically detailed.
On Wednesday morning this young girl was asked to describe the size of her rapist’s penis. Like all rape cases, she had to describe the penetration, the “how and when and what happened after that?”
Also like most other cases, the young victim had to describe (in our Samoan language) the oral sex that occurred prior to the act of rape and the agonising need to name the parts of the body involved in the acts.
All of these descriptions must be said out loud and vividly explained, to ensure the evidence for rape is established.
The 14 year old had a low quiet voice that morning, and she had to be told a number of times to please speak up. “Leo tele mai faamolemole e lē o lagona atu oe..”
Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren offers a slight nod towards the witness to assure her, and then also asks that she speaks a little louder into the microphone.
The young girl describes their small fale-apa, located on a plantation deep inland. (O uta lava i le togavao e tu ai le matou fale). The length and width is said to be no more than 5 metres by 6 metres.
When they sleep, it is her father, then her two younger siblings, then her. Her mother is the only parent who could find formal work for income, and she was working a night shift in Vailoa that night.
When her younger siblings 10 and 8 years old at the time were asleep, her father moves across to where she lay and tells her not to make a sound, and not to alert her younger brother and sister. “Aua e ke pisa i ou kei laiki.”
When the act is done he assures he is not caught by instilling fear upon his victim. Again, a common act of perpetrators.
“If you tell anyone I’ll come to you with a knife.”
“E te fai loa i se isi ou alu atu loa ma le naifi ia te oe.”
During cross examination Defense Counsel told the young girl that she had made all of it up, because she was angry with her father for beating her up.
She was also asked to explain why she did not tell her mother straight away, although it is not uncommon for rape victims to not tell especially if they are threatened.
When the victim tried to describe a second incident five months later in July of the same year, Defense Counsel objected that Prosecution had not filed charges relating to a second incident. The victim was stopped and therefore unable to give evidence on what she had started to say, was the second time she was raped.
The defendant was found guilty of one charge of rape and is set to be sentenced before Christmas.