CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to child abuse.
Speaking up 35 years after being sexually assaulted by an uncle had nothing to do with revenge, instead it came from a persistent voice inside her that told her “enough is enough”, a child abuse survivor said.
Earlier this year, Antonius van de Zandt was found guilty of sexually abusing his niece, Queenie van de Zandt, in 1986 when she was 15 years old.
The 72-year-old returned to the ACT Supreme Court for his sentencing hearing on Thursday (9 November) where he heard Queenie read a statement she had written about the “life-altering” impact of his offences.
“Bringing this matter to the police had nothing to do with revenge, it was not done out of anger, but from a quiet, thoughtful place,” she said. “From a persistent voice inside saying enough is enough. This strong, but gentle, voice is the voice that Ton [her uncle] silenced the day he raped me, a voice for so long I felt I couldn’t trust.
“But I now know it is a voice that I can trust, because it is my voice, a voice of the strong woman who led me serendipitously to sit in front of that Child Abuse Monument to write this statement, who led me to report his crime to police on the 16th of March 2021 – unknowingly exactly 35 years to the day, since his sexual abuse.”
She quoted Australian of the Year Grace Tame, saying, “evil thrives in silence” and “the start of the solution is quite simple. Make noise”.
“And so, in speaking out today, my voice is joining so many other voices,” Queenie said.
“It is being echoed through the zeitgeist, saying it is time to break the silence, to do what is right, to hold all perpetrators of sexual assault to account, to be a part of a movement that will protect the daughters and sons of this next generation, to stop the cycle of abuse, a loud voice that says ‘no more’.”
At the end of the Supreme Court trial, Antonius was found guilty of two charges – having sexual intercourse with and committing an act of indecency on a child aged between 10 and 16.
He had fought his charges, claiming he was asleep at the time of the assault.
Jurors heard Queenie had woken up to the then-34-year-old touching her before he digitally raped and sexually assaulted her. The court heard she had been “frozen in fear”.
Antonius was combative with the prosecutor when giving evidence during the trial.
For instance, when Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told him the prosecutor was allowed to ask questions related to her case, Antonius replied: “I’m also letting her know that I’m getting annoyed”.
On Thursday, prosecutor Lewis Etheredge argued Antonius had not shown any remorse and noted how points had been raised about how he still maintained his innocence.
The prosecutor said he’d written a “self-serving letter”, in which he said he was sorry, but then also said he couldn’t remember the incident because he was asleep.
Mr Etheredge said while a “volume of medical records” had been provided to the court, there was no expert report on what his current conditions were, their severity or what effect prison would have on them.
But Antonius’s lawyer, Edward Chen of Legal Aid, argued it was clear on the evidence that his client was hospitalized frequently.
He also appeared to be diagnosed with depression, he said.
While Antonius’s lawyers asked for a suspended sentence, Mr Etheredge argued he should receive a sentence of full-time jail.
Queenie said her uncle’s abuse had left a lasting impact.
“Your sexual abuse of my 15-year-old self broke me into two and the natural progression of myself, my identity, my self-esteem, my self-confidence and my self-control, was decimated,” she said.
“And lastly, you putting me and my family through the stress of this trial, and the subsequent pressure on my relationships with each of them and that of extended family in Holland has been devastatingly traumatic, causing misunderstandings, isolation and the breakdown of several very important relationships.”
Chief Justice McCallum will hand down her sentence on 1 December. Queenie has consented to being identified by the media.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact 1800RESPECT, the national domestic and sexual violence support service, by calling 1800 737 732 or by visiting 1800RESPECT.