Athlete, 13, prepped for rape trial

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A 13-year-old Durban girl is being psychologically prepared to testify against her sports coach who allegedly had sex with her.

Durban - A 13-year-old Durban girl is being “psychologically prepared” to testify against her sports coach in a European court, where he is on trial for allegedly having sex with her during training for a championship tournament.

The trial of the 42-year-old Olympics coach, who is also from Durban, began last Wednesday after the charge of rape was put to him in May.

The name of the accused and the country where he is being tried is being withheld to protect the identity of the girl, a star athlete. She is expected to testify against him on December 17, two days before the trial concludes.

The girl’s family said they were being kept in the loop by their lawyer in Europe and that they would be leaving for Europe a few days before she was required to testify.

Her father said she was being psychologically prepared but would not go into detail on what this entailed, as he said he wanted to prevent further trauma to his daughter.

A spokeswoman for the country’s public prosecutor’s office overseas told the Daily News pre-trial investigations had yielded details of the coach’s alleged crimes.

“The accused, still in pre-trial confinement, is accused of picking the [girl] up from her godmother in [a nearby town] and to bring [her] to a hotel in the city in which he was working [sic].”

The spokeswoman said he then asked her to sleep with him in the hotel room.

“At first the girl refused, but he persuaded the child with the promise that they really loved each other, so in the end they had vaginal intercourse.”

“The [girl] stayed in the country from July 2011 to August 2011 for [a local championship tournament].”

On the first day of the trial last week, the accused refused to give evidence directly and made statements only to his lawyer, she said, adding that witnesses for the prosecution would include the girl’s godmother and a police officer.

The coach was arrested abroad on May 18, days after he appeared in the Durban Regional Court on sex allegations involving the same girl.

Hopes thwarted

He had been granted R80 000 bail in Durban on May 9, and conditionally allowed to return to his family in Europe, where he had been coaching a team for the London Olympics. He has been in custody since, his Olympic hopes thwarted.

The spokeswoman said there had been no official contact between the European authorities and prosecutors here.

“Our prosecutors have sent a notice to South Africa, but there has been no answer yet. But they do know about the [charges].”

Earlier this year, the decision to allow the coach to leave South Africa came under fire from advocacy groups.

Germaine Vogel, advocacy manager for activist organisation Women and Men Against Child Abuse, said at the time that the action taken by authorities in Europe stood in stark contrast to the South African courts, which granted the man bail.

The coach was supposed to have appeared at Durban Regional Court again in August to face allegations of rape and sexual assault of a child, grooming a child for the purposes of sexual assault, as well as possessing and distributing child pornography. He was unable to do so as he was in custody in Europe.

Explaining what the teen could expect in the run-up to testifying, Vogel said the psychological preparation was meant to educate victims on how the court system worked, to alleviate their fears.

“It also is a process to examine the victim’s feelings, to unpack what a court appearance is and how they feel about having to testify in court.

“The court preparation officer examines the knowledge the victim has about the justice system, what occurs in a court room, and then proceeds with the training.”

The officer could be court-appointed, private or from an organisation that dealt with victims of abuse.

“Preparation is often done by the officer in a simulated situation [in a mock court]. The victim ideally should be taken to an empty real court room by the officer to familiarise [her with] the real-life situation.”

Vogel said four sessions were usually booked, but the officer, judging from the victim’s progress, could decide on more.

“It is important to familiarise the victim with the very harsh environment; to assist the victim to be truthful and not to be intimidated by the environment; and to teach the victim about the oath they will have to take,” she said.

Vogel said the victim needed to understand the reason for testifying in a court room, to alleviate any further anxiety by the knowledge of what to expect. - Daily News


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