SINGAPORE: For more than 20 years, a man sexually abused his stepdaughter as he was not having regular sex with his wife and was "stressed because of his financial woes".
The victim, who was seven when the offences first began, kept the abuse from her mother as she knew she was financially dependent on her stepfather, and grew accustomed to the acts of abuse.
She felt disgusted and dirty, believing her only way out was to end her life or move out to her own flat when she was 35. But she eventually reported the case three years ago with encouragement from her brother and a friend.
All parties in this case cannot be named due to gag orders protecting the identity of the victim, who is now 33.
The 66-year-old man pleaded guilty on Monday (Oct 12) to five counts of molestation, with another nine charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that the victim's mother began dating the offender, a bus driver, after the victim's father died in 1989.
He married her mother in 1999 and began molesting her from when she was seven years old. When she was 12, she asked the man to help her insert medication into her rectum as she could not do so by herself, and he molested her after doing so.
The acts progressed over 20 years as the man grew emboldened by her silence, carrying out the offences mostly in her room when the rest of the family were asleep or absent.
The victim did not break her silence even though she feared that the acts could escalate to rape, as she knew the family, especially her mother, depended on the offender for finances.
She also feared that her mother would not believe or would blame her, and grew accustomed to the sexual abuse over the years, as the acts became a norm to her.
"She had resigned herself to her predicament and believed her only way out was to either end her life or wait until she turned 35 years old to move out to her own flat," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana.
In 2013, the victim told her brother that their stepfather had been sexually abusing her since she was a child and her brother suggested that she lock her bedroom door.
SHE BEGAN LOCKING HER DOOR ON HER BROTHER'S SUGGESTION
She did so, even though she was hesitant as the household practice was to leave the doors open, and this decreased the frequency of the sexual abuse.
However, her stepfather could still occasionally enter her bedroom by using force as the lock was faulty. When the lock was replaced, the victim kept the key, but she did not know that her stepfather had another one.
In February 2017, the victim's mother was admitted to hospital for gall stones and the victim returned home with her stepfather. She went to her bedroom and locked the door, but the man entered her room with his own key and began molesting her.
When she pushed him away, he persisted and said: "Touch only".
The victim kept resisting as the acts went on, and texted her brother who was not home at that time to tell him what was happening, and said she was "scared and wanted to die".
Her stepfather stopped only when the victim's female friend called her and started talking loudly to her on the phone.
On her brother's encouragement, the victim went to her female friend's home and stayed the night, confiding in her. Eventually, she agreed to report the matter and filed a police report.
EXHIBITED SYMPTOMS OF PTSD, DEPRESSION
She was seen by a consultant at Changi General Hospital's Department of Psychological Medicine and found to have experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, but did not meet the criteria for a mental disorder.
The victim had coped with "self-talk", by reminding herself that her stepfather had not raped her, keeping her mother's needs for companionship and finances in mind, and distracting herself with work.
Her stepfather told investigators that he had felt the urge to touch the victim when she was going through puberty. He said he was "tempted" after seeing her naked while inserting the medicine for her, and said he was not having regular sex with his wife. He added that he was "stressed because of his financial woes".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana on Wednesday (Oct 14) asked for the maximum sentence of 10 years' jail and an additional seven-and-a-half months' jail in lieu of caning.
She quoted the victim's words: "These incidents will be in me forever ... I feel dirty and disgusted of myself. I am just waiting for me to die so that I can escape from the past and restart my life forgetting all those dirty memories."
Ms Surthi said these words reflected "the lifetime of pain and suffering the accused has inflicted upon her".
"The facts of the present case are unprecedented. This is the worst case of sexual abuse involving acts of outrage of modesty to appear before the Courts to date, both by virtue of the duration of offending and the nature of the offending acts," she said.
She said the offender robbed his stepdaughter of her childhood and persisted with the sexual abuse even after she became an adult, targeting her when she was alone and most vulnerable.
The victim suffered persistent nightmares, contemplated suicide and acts of self-harm, and continues to fear entering relationships with other men, said Ms Surthi.
SENTENCE IS CRUSHING: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Wee Hong Shern asked instead for a jail term of six years and 10 months, saying that the sentence sought by the prosecution was "crushing and incommensurate to the offences".
He said his client's relationship with the victim's mother began deteriorating from when he was 40, after which they stopped sleeping together in the same bed.
Mr Wee said his client felt sexually deprived and caved "into his lecherous desires". He said that while the victim exhibited symptoms of PTSD and depression, they were not serious enough to meet the criteria for a mental disorder.
His client has no previous convictions and has pleaded guilty, and is the sole breadwinner for his family, said Mr Wee.
He added that his client had been a victim of sexual abuse himself for about five years at the age of 15, when a man abused him.
The judge adjourned sentencing to Dec 1.
Where to get help: Samaritans of Singapore operates a 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444, or you can email email@example.com. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.