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Durban - Child rape survivor Candice Bowman, who endured nine years of sexual abuse, said she had previously had no confidence in the justice system, but that yesterday her faith was restored when her molester was jailed in the Scottburgh High Court.
Bowman’s stepfather, Larry du Plessis Zwiegelaar, 53, was given an accumulative jail term of 40 years, of which he will serve an effective 15 years in prison, for indecent assault and rape. He was also sentenced for molesting Bowman’s older sister, Jackie Toms.
The sisters broke their silence about the abuse in 2010, some two decades after the first incidents had taken place. They had not come forward earlier because they had wanted to protect their stepsiblings from the trauma of going public.
Bowman, speaking outside court, said at first she felt stupid for thinking her case would get to court.
“I did not have any faith in the justice system, and a lot of people did not believe that we would get this far. But my case is an example of when the system works. We had an amazing team who were empathetic and believed in this case. I hope more women and children who are abused will come forward because of my case.”
Toms, who was unable to be present at the sentencing, said she and Bowman would now have to start the “hard work” of moving towards healing.
“I am just relieved that this part of the process is over. I was never conscious of the effect that the abuse had on my life, but I realised it when the trial began. Now we have to move forward. It will be a long journey, but I am positive.”
In his judgment, Acting Judge A Mfayela said Zwiegelaar had preyed on his step-daughters.
“Sexual abuse against children is a cancer in our society. The accused abused his position of trust and authority. You are not truly remorseful and tried to minimise the blame on yourself.”
He said the level of abuse was “mind-boggling”.
“The accused went to the extent of drilling a hole to put a two-way mirror between the bathroom and toilet so he could watch them.
“Both sisters have carried the emotional scars into their adult lives.”
Referring to the evidence of Childline KwaZulu-Natal director Linda Naidoo, Judge Mfayela said Zwiegelaar had groomed the children. Naidoo testified that yesterday that Zwiegelaar had an obsession with his stepchildren.
“He created opportunities to abuse them and groomed the children for sexual activities.”
She added that it would be difficult for him to be rehabilitated because he had not acknowledged all his crimes.
“From my work, offenders tell me that it is very difficult to delete fantasies of children, and the need to gratify himself will always be there.”
Kamini Padayachee @inl.co.za