SINGAPORE: A 45-year-old man was sentenced on Wednesday (Jul 21) to 29 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane for sexually abusing his daughter over five years, beginning when she was 10.
The man, who cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the victim's identity, was convicted at trial of 15 charges of molesting and sexually assaulting the victim between 2010 and 2014.
He married the victim's mother in 1998 and had three children with her. They began quarrelling, with their marital problems worsening. Their divorce was finalised in March 2012.
The offender obtained joint custody of two children - his son and the victim - while his ex-wife obtained sole custody of their third child.
FIRST INCIDENT OF ABUSE
The abuse of the victim began in 2010, with the accused turning to the victim to "satisfy his sexual urges" following a decrease in sexual intimacy with his wife, the prosecutors said.
The girl was in Primary 4 at the time. She was sleeping in the house when she felt her father hugging her from behind and molesting her, before she felt a sharp pain.
She did not know how to react and went back to sleep. The next day, she asked her father what happened and he told her it was "sex and this is what mummy and daddy do". He told her not to tell anyone about it, and said he would teach her more along the way.
The victim felt "weird and confused" but listened to her father, as she looked up to him, the court heard. Her father abused her again a few nights later, and thereafter sexually violated her three to four times a week.
His acts escalated from fondling to penetrative acts that occurred at night while the family was asleep. He first sodomised his daughter in 2011 when she was playing on her PlayStation.
The girl testified that it was "the most painful experience" and that she felt pain the next few days and had trouble going to the toilet.
Around this time, the victim attended sexual education classes in school and realised that what her father was doing was wrong. She spoke to him, but he told her not to listen to her teacher, and to "just do as I tell you what to do".
She tried to resist her father, but he continued to sexually assault her, warning her not to tell anyone and that she would "lose a father" if she did. He continued to abuse his daughter after getting a girlfriend in 2012.
The victim eventually "became resigned to his sexual demands as she knew that any attempt to resist him would be futile", said the prosecutors.
In December 2013, the victim ran away and sought refuge with her mother. However, she returned to her father when he asked for a second chance and vowed to stop all sexual activities with her.
He did not keep his word. The victim ran away to her mother again in end-2014 after months of "relentless sexual abuse". Her father agreed to let her go, on the condition that she would not reveal the incidents of sexual abuse.
The victim remained silent, telling her mother only that the offender had not been a good father to her.
In October 2017, the victim's mother found out that the victim had a boyfriend behind her back, and took her a few times to meet the offender to be disciplined, the court heard.
HE APOLOGISED TO HER, ASKED HER TO FORGET ABOUT THE ABUSE
He scolded the victim, before asking to speak to her alone. He sought her forgiveness for the sexual acts and told her to try to forget about them. He said he was doing well in life, and asked her to keep the sexual abuse to herself and "forget about it".
The victim felt he was unremorseful and was trivialising the abuse. In November 2017, the victim's stepfather asked the victim about her disdain towards the offender.
Feeling she could trust him, the victim told him about the sexual abuse but did not elaborate. She asked him not to tell her mother, as she did not want "things to get very big and messy".
Her stepfather told her that she would eventually have to tell her mother. Her mother approached her the following week, asking if she had anything to share, and the victim told her about the sexual abuse.
She did not want to make a police report as she was concerned about her brother, who was staying with her father at the time. She filed a police report on Nov 19, 2017, only after her mother urged her to reconsider.
Her father instructed his son to urge the victim to drop the charges, but with no success.
The victim testified at trial that she had a hard time getting over the sexual abuse, which she said had deprived her of a childhood and changed her perception of a father's role.
Her sleep and performance in school were affected, and she still struggled to sleep at night after moving in with her mother. She said she is slowly getting over it and wants to be "a stronger and a better individual in the future".
HE UTTERLY FAILED AS A FATHER: PROSECUTION
Prosecutors called for at least 31 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane, saying that the offender had "utterly failed to act in a manner befitting of a father figure".
They pointed out how he had made "scandalous assertions about the victim" at trial to "humiliate and discredit her". He had claimed that she was setting him up, because he purportedly discovered she had engaged in premarital sex with her boyfriend.
He said at trial that, according to their religion, it was "already wrong" for her to have sex with her boyfriend.
Defence lawyer Mohammad Shafiq Haja Maideen asked instead for not more than 18 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane.
He said his client was sincerely apologetic that his actions caused his daughter distress and anguish. This was his first offence, and he had been "a good father" to the victim until committing the offences, said the lawyer.
"The accused also provided for the victim from her birth till he was arrested," said Mr Shafiq.
He said his client had contributed to the well-being of his three children, paying S$1,000 monthly for the two children who lived with him and another S$300 for the maintenance of the third child who lived with his ex-wife.
For each charge of sexual assault by penetration, the man could have been jailed for up to 20 years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane.