SINGAPORE: A woman testifying in a sex abuse trial told a court on Wednesday (Oct 28) that she thought her husband’s changes in behaviour were because he was interested in her teenage son’s new girlfriend.
However, her son later told her that her husband – his stepfather – had sexually abused him from the age of eight. Growing emotional on the stand and initially struggling to speak, the 48-year-old woman said she was angry and felt like she wanted to kill her husband.
The 54-year-old accused man is on trial for 15 charges including sexually assaulting and molesting his stepson, committing indecent acts on a child and procuring such acts from him, as well as illegally stalking the victim’s girlfriend. The trial opened earlier this year and is in its second tranche.
All parties in the case cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the identity of the victim, who is now a 21-year-old man.
The sexual offences were allegedly committed against the victim when he was between eight and 17. His mother had married the accused in June 2007 after divorcing the victim’s biological father.
The prosecution’s case is that the accused moved to stay with the victim’s family in a one-room flat in 2007 and later in another two-room flat.
The victim’s mother often left him in the care of her husband when she went to work, and the boy looked up to him as a stepfather, sharing a close relationship with him.
“Between 2007 and 2012, in the privacy of their flat, the accused exploited the victim’s trust, and groomed him to enjoy their sexual activities, to the point where the victim sometimes initiated the sexual acts,” said the prosecution.
Their case is that the victim realised only in 2014, when he was in Secondary 4, that the acts were wrong and stopped them. However, in October 2015, he introduced his girlfriend to his mother and stepfather.
The victim’s mother told the court that before her son’s girlfriend came into the picture, her husband was “very cool” and did not get angry easily. However, after she was introduced to them, his behaviour changed and he became “controlling” of her son.
“Every time he would message (him) and then asking him where he was and when he would come back,” said the woman. If her son went home late, the accused would be angry and ask him where he went and why he did not reply to his messages, she added.
According to the prosecution’s case, the accused wanted to reinitiate his sexual activities with the victim, but the teen was not interested.
He agreed to his demands only after the older man threatened to ruin his relationship with his girlfriend, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Asoka Markandu, Michelle Lu and Colin Ng.
THE DAY HER SON TOLD HER “THE TRUTH”
The victim’s mother told the court how she was in a cab heading out on Jan 15, 2016, when her son sent her messages “pleading” with her to return home because it was “about time” for her to know the truth.
The victim eventually met his mother in Geylang, accompanied by his girlfriend. When they were talking, a thought “spontaneously” came to the woman’s mind, and she wondered if her husband was gay, she testified.
She said her son told her that her husband had “done something” to him, such as molestation and sodomy.
“I was angry,” said the woman, growing emotional. “I asked (my son), is this the truth, and he said this is the truth. I asked him, since Primary 3, or 4? He said since Primary 3 or 4, (my husband) did that to him.”
She wiped away her tears and said she did not think much further and called her brother and asked all her siblings to gather at her mother’s home, where they were set to celebrate her mother’s birthday.
She bumped into her husband on a bus on the way home, but she did not talk to him. When they arrived home, she said she felt “like killing him”, but did not confront him as she was “extremely angry”.
THE HOSPITAL AND POLICE STATION VISITS
She later consulted her elder brother, who advised her to take her son to a clinic. They later went to a hospital, where a doctor advised them to make a police report.
“I spoke with my late brother, and he asked me whether I wanted to proceed to make a police report or not, and I said OK we proceed,” testified the woman.
They went to the police station and gave their statements, and the victim later went to stay with an uncle.
On Jan 18, 2016, the accused became hot-tempered after growing drunk and was mumbling to himself that his stepson was not respectful to him, said the victim’s mother.
She said her husband took a chopper from the kitchen and said he wanted to look for the victim and kill him. He also pointed the chopper at her and said “you should have supported me”, before leaving the house.
She said she did not ask what he meant by support him, as she was very angry with him and “hated him … like I despise him”.
She called her older brother, who asked her to call the police, and he was later interviewed by the police. He gave statements to the police in March 2016, but waved it off as “nothing” when his wife asked him about it.
She accompanied him to court on Dec 3, 2018, and he was remanded. After this, she returned home and retrieved the charges from his drawer, reading them for the first time.
The next day, she visited her husband at Changi Prison and asked him if it was true, what he did to her son.
“He only said no and he just put his head down,” said the woman. “After that, I visited him daily. On Dec 5, I asked him the same question again, but this time he said he couldn’t remember because he was drunk.”
That same day, the accused asked his wife to get her son to withdraw the case, she said.
“PRESSURE” TO DROP CASE
“He said that if he were to be found guilty, he would spend a long time inside in prison, so every day when I visit him, he will always talk about this. It was like a pressure on me. I felt stressed.”
After this, she told her son what her husband had said, but he kept quiet. They held a family meeting with other relatives, to ask how much they could contribute to the woman’s expenses as her husband was no longer around.
During the meeting, a relative asked the victim why he did not want to withdraw the case, said the victim’s mother.
“(My son) responded – could he withdraw the case? After that, all of us became quiet,” she said.
She later made arrangements to meet the police to have her son withdraw the case, even though he had not said he wanted to do so. She claimed that she “actually didn’t want to withdraw the case”, but felt pressure from her husband when she visited him daily.
While at the police station, the woman requested to call her mother, and while doing so, “accidentally deleted” messages from her daughter.
The police questioned her about this, and seized her phone. Questioned by the judge about why she had wanted to delete the message but accidentally deleted the entire thread, the woman said she did not want the police to know that her daughter knew she had met the police. Asked why, she said she did not know. Her son did not withdraw the case.
THE MAN’S DEFENCE
The accused is defended by Pramnath Vijayakumar and Sadhana Rai from Law Society Pro Bono Services. His defence is one of bare denial. He indicated that he is prepared to plead guilty to stalking his stepson’s girlfriend and threatening his wife with a chopper, but claims he did not commit any of the alleged sexual offences.
Ms Rai showed the victim’s mother messages from her daughter, stating that the victim had signed his police statements without reading them.
The lawyer also said the victim’s mother continued to visit her husband in prison and wrote to him even after she was told she could not visit him. She also showed messages in which the victim’s mother purportedly said she had been asking her son to withdraw the case, and asked her why she did this.
The woman responded: “Because I felt this was a family problem. I felt that (my husband) was already old.”
The trial continues. If convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, the man can be jailed between eight and 20 years. He cannot be caned as he is above 50.
The penalties for sexual penetration of a minor are a maximum jail term of 10 years, a fine, or both, while molesting a minor draws up to five years’ jail, a fine, caning, or any combination of these punishments.
If convicted of committing or procuring the commission of any indecent act with a child, he could be jailed for up to five years, fined up to S$10,000, or both for the first offence.
If found guilty of unlawful stalking, he could be jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$5,000, or both.
Published at Wed, 28 Oct 2020 10:57:22 +0000