1 December 2023

'The time of silence is over', woman says after rapist uncle jailed

| Albert McKnight
queenie van de zandt

Queenie van de Zandt has encouraged victims of sexual violence to speak out. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to child abuse.

A woman who survived sexual violence at the hands of a family member has called for cultural change in the country, saying the “time of silence is over”.

At the end of an ACT Supreme Court trial, Antonius van de Zandt was found guilty of sexually abusing his niece, Queenie van de Zandt, in 1986 when she was 15 years old.

On Friday (1 December), he was convicted and sentenced to three years’ jail, suspended after serving six months in prison.

After he was led away into custody, Queenie, who has previously talked about the impacts of the abuse, thanked advocates for survivors of sexual violence Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame and Saxon Mullins, saying their words made her come forward.

“We need cultural change toward sexual violence in Australia: starting with teaching credible sex and consent education in Australian schools, making victim-centred sexual assault laws and introducing sentencing reform to properly reflect the damage caused by sexual violence, especially on children,” she said.

“The time of silence is over. In speaking out and reporting my sexual assault, I have gone from being a victim to a survivor. And the more of us that report sexual violence, the stronger we become.

“I encourage all victims to speak up and redirect the shame to where it belongs – with the perpetrator. Tell your story. Together, we can create actual concrete change for our daughters and sons.”

At a trial, Antonius Van de Zandt, 72, fought the allegations against him. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said Queenie was 15 in 1986 when she stayed at the home of her then-34-year-old uncle and aunt, two people she “admired and adored”.

The three fell asleep on their bed, but Queenie then awoke to find her uncle touching her before he digitally raped and sexually abused her.

“I couldn’t move; I was absolutely terrified,” she said.

She told him, “You’re my uncle, you’re my uncle”, and he said, “Sorry, sorry”, then went to sleep.

READ ALSO Gunfire and an explosion in central Canberra: 30 years on from Jolimont Siege

Chief Justice McCallum said the now-72-year-old didn’t deny committing the sexual acts and the evidence suggested that before he was charged, he accepted full responsibility.

However, once he was charged, he defended himself by saying he committed the acts in his sleep and had no memory of them.

The chief justice said Queenie was “an articulate and extremely careful witness” during the trial, while Antonius and his wife were “impassive and dogmatic” and gave evidence that seemed to be “sanitised” to fit his newly claimed innocence.

Antonius had written a letter for Queenie, saying he apologised for her suffering, but also said, “I still maintain I was asleep”.

The chief justice said this showed the letter had been “a cynical exercise in self-ingratiation”, and she found he had not shown remorse.

She did say he posed little risk of reoffending, while the offending was an isolated incident and an uncharacteristic aberration.

READ ALSO Tetraplegic terrorist who planned ‘violent attack’ on Goulburn prison officers handed more jail time

Chief Justice McCallum said a wholly suspended sentence was not appropriate given the seriousness of the incident, but she shortened the jail term from what it would have been due to his age and poor health.

Antonius van de Zandt was convicted on charges of having sex with and committing an act of indecency on a person aged between 10 and 16.

He will be released from custody in May 2024 if he signs a good behaviour order for two-and-a-half years.

Queenie van de Zandt spoke out after her uncle was found guilty. Photo: Albert McKnight.

“One of the most important things for victims is to be believed and to be heard,” Queenie said afterwards.

She said she had always been incredibly vocal about sexual assault but never reported her own until after she had a daughter, wanted things to change for her generation, then heard Ms Tame speak.

“I suddenly thought, I can post as many articles on Facebook and go to as many marches, but until I actually take that step and actually report my crime, I’m not really helping anything,” she explained.

She said now the court case was over, it felt “incredibly healing” to find her voice again.

“Even though it’s a very traumatic process to go through, I feel incredibly strong from being on the other side of it,” Queenie said.

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.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.