CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses childhood sexual abuse.
The mother of a seven-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by a family friend, before he went on to rape a 12-year-old while on bail, says her daughter “still asks why the defendant hurt her”.
The now 20-year-old man pleaded guilty to charges of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 as well as a child under 16 in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (18 November).
Several heartbreaking statements by the survivors’ families were read to the court, in which they described the impact of what had happened to the girls and the families themselves.
The seven-year-old’s mother said her child had regressed in a number of ways after the assault, including in her toileting so she had to start wearing disposable nappies, while she would also have uncontrollable rages.
She said the girl’s brother was struggling with guilt due to what his “so-called mate” had done, because he thought if they hadn’t been friends then the assaults wouldn’t have happened.
“He took away her innocence and childhood,” the mother said of the offender.
“He may have had it tough in jail, but she was seven years old.
“One thing you will never break is just how strong my daughter is.”
The mother of the 12-year-old girl also said her daughter had changed after she was assaulted, saying she started showing a lot more because she felt “dirty and shameful”.
She also started having outbursts, tried to self-medicate and overdosed, and would run away from home.
“It has torn the family apart,” the mother said.
“This will never be fixed.”
Justice Michael Elkaim said these statements clearly showed the “harm and tragedy” the horrific crimes, which took place over 2020 and 2021, had inflicted on the girls and their families.
The offender had been sleeping over at the seven-year-old’s Canberra home when he woke her up, took her into another room and sexually assaulted her twice over consecutive nights.
Months later, she told her mother what happened. When police arrived at the man’s home to arrest him, he told them, “I f-d up good, I know what I did was wrong”.
He was granted bail. But the next year, the 12-year-old had slept over at his house when he took her into a room and raped her.
When this was discovered and he was confronted, he told a woman, “She consented. She wanted it.”
The court heard arguments from the defence that the man, who is legally unable to be named, has an intellectual disability and an Autism spectrum disorder, which might have meant he misunderstood the 12-year-old’s age.
He was 17 when he abused the seven-year-old, but had turned 18 when he assaulted the second girl.
Crown Prosecutor Anthony Williamson SC argued it appeared he had little insight into his offending, which did suggest he presented with a heightened risk of reoffending in the future.
Justice Elkaim did note the offender’s own life involved tragedy as well, for instance he had been neglected by his mother, frequently abandoned by his father and started heavy drinking when aged 11. Mr Williamson accepted he’d been exposed to considerable deprivation as a child.
The offender has already served 603 days in custody. Justice Elkaim sentenced him to a total of about three years and seven months’ jail, with a non-parole period that means he can apply to be released in March 2023.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 02 6280 0900, Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. In an emergency, call 000.