‘Man gets 27 years for incest’ was the headline in the Post Courier of Tuesday 26th June this year after a 47-year-old man was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to 2 counts of incest. The facts reveal that his incestuous relationship with his daughter led to her conceiving and giving birth to 7 children, the youngest was 5 months old at the time of reporting. From this incestuous relationship the perpetrator again subjected his eldest daughter/granddaughter to forceful sexual intercourse that resulted in her giving birth to a baby boy at the tender age of 14.
Children, especially girls, deserve to feel safe and protected in their homes, and not abused. This is a story of a mother and her eldest daughter who were sexually abused by the same man.
*Janet was first sexually abused by her biological father (offender) when she was in year 8. Janet told her mother about the incident, who then scolded her husband. But the offender did not stop: he continued his incestuous act to his only daughter. She was raised in her father’s village, surrounded by a whole village of her father’s relatives who were fully aware of the client’s situation. However, none of them intervened to assist the client and break this cycle of abuse.
Janet’s mother was also aware of the abuse but could not do much because she was sick at that time. When she wanted to report it, her husband would threaten to kill her. Knowing what was happening to her daughter, Janet’s mother got sick after constant worrying as she too did not have any support system in her husband’s village. Janet’s mum later died from illness.
With no support from her relatives, Janet was stuck in this incestuous cycle of abuse. This resulted in her bearing 7 children from her father. During the period of this incestuous relationship she bore children within close range of each other, the oldest being 14 at the time of reporting, the second child 10, third child 8, fourth child 6, fifth child 5, sixth child 4 and the youngest was 5 months old.
The offender then started abusing the eldest of the 7 children, *Jane. Due to the ongoing sexual abuse Jane became pregnant at the age of 14 and gave birth to a baby boy.
She was brought to the Angau Memorial General Hospital whilst in labour and the fact where her tender age alerted the Health Extension Officer (HEO) to her plight. The HEO made contact with the Femili PNG staff who responded immediately by going directly to the hospital and assessing the situation. The child mother needed baby clothes for her new born baby including diapers. She was vulnerable, being a child herself, and had no adult relative there to support her through the process of giving birth.
With the assessment made by Femili PNG staff, an urgent consultation was made with the FSVAC Secretariat. The Welfare office and the police were notified about the case and a case conference was conducted to plan and discuss the case and actions to be taken by the partners (service providers) who were directly involved.
The case conference identified the need for immediate protection of the child- mother as well her infant as being paramount because the child-mother was emotionally disturbed after the birth and was crying. It was recommended in the case conference that in the best interest of the child-mother and her infant, that both be moved to a safe location and the child- mother be supported with trauma counselling by Femili PNG and Welfare. With this referral, Femili PNG staff including the Welfare Officer immediately intervened and removed the child- mother from the Angau Memorial General Hospital and transferred her and her infant to a safe location. Basic needs such as baby clothes and food for the child- mother was also supplied.
Finally, it was the beginning of the end of the offender’s incestuous cycle of abuse and the continuing silence of the offender’s community when Jane’s case was attended to by the Femili PNG and its partners. With close coordination from the partners, the case was finally committed to the National Court in October of 2017.
Presiding Judge, Justice Frazer Pitpit, when delivering the decision against the offender at the Lae National Court in June this year (Post Courier, Tuesday 26th June 2018) said, ‘’the offence is prohibited by the three sources of laws namely, criminal, Christian principles and customary law throughout the entire country.’’
Justice Pitpit added that the offender has left nothing good behind for his family, except hardship, shame and pain. He continued that the offender will no longer pose a threat when he is released from prison after serving his time. The offender will be serving his time in prison with hard labour.
Justice has been served, but these innocent girls will carry the scars with them for the rest of their lives. This act of incest has been perpetrated across 2 generations by the very person who has been entrusted with their care and upbringing. The perpetrator, for reasons known only to himself or for self-gratification has left children who are emotionally scarred and who will be subjected to the ridicule and stigmatisation of something that was not of their doing.
Femili PNG and partners in Lae will continue to work closely together in addressing this scourge of family and sexual violence by helping survivors’ access services and ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice to account for their crimes.