Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers
A 62-year-old man from Cape Town has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Khayelitsha Regional Court for raping his foster child for more than 10 years.
The child rapist, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, lived with his wife and four other foster children.
During the trial, the court heard that he sexually abused and raped the child from the age of seven until she reported the crimes to a social worker at the age of 17.
The social worker believed her and reported the case to the police.
The court heard the child was orphaned and bounced around several homes before she was placed with her rapist and his wife.
The now 22-year-old was supported by the Court Preparation Officer (CPO), Nonceba Dingiswayo during consultations and her testimony.
The victim told the court she and her siblings (the other foster children in the home) would be sitting on the floor watching television and her foster father would sit on the couch and insert his toe into her private parts.
The rapist worked the night shift at a local petrol station while his wife worked the day shift.
The court heard the victim would come from school and he would pull up her skirt and insert his fingers into her private parts.
She told the court she thought this was normal.
State Prosecutor, Illana Bester told the court that as the victim got older, she was tasked with taking her rapist foster father food to his workplace or take his raincoat to him if it was raining.
“She was the only sibling tasked with this and it created animosity as other siblings felt he favoured her, until she informed them, at the age of 11, that he instructed her to get into his bed and have sex with her,” Bester told the court.
“She testified that the only time she would get a ‘break' from being raped was when family members of the accused from the Eastern Cape visited,” she said.
The victim reported the rape to her foster mother and members of the community, but instead of involving police, meetings were held at the home and she was promised the rapes would stop, he was sorry and she was told not to tell anyone, otherwise the social development department would remove her from the home.
The court heard the rapes took place three to four times a week and the victim had to cook for the accused.
Bester told the court that the victim felt nobody believed her, and out of fear she did as she was told. He was her father and she respected him and the authority he had in the house.
When she started high school she started journalling her feelings, documenting the rapes and times of the incidents, the court heard.
During her time in high school, the rapes continued and the victim would come from school, be ordered to cook, go to the bedroom, lift her skirt, lie on the bed and be raped.
One day she reported the incidents to her teacher who called in her foster parents to discuss the matter. Nothing came from the discussions, instead, the victim was barred from playing or socialising with other children after school. She had to cook and be raped repeatedly.
At the age of 17, the victim came home late after attending an after school drama concert which she had asked her foster mother to attend, but did not, the learner transport driver dropped her off and her foster father started accusing her of being promiscuous and of having an affair with the driver.
This broke her silence and the following day she approached a social worker allocated to her and disclosed what has been happening to her for years. This was the first time someone believed her.
Her foster parents were arrested.
The foster mother was charged with failure to report a sexual assault against a child. She entered into a plea and sentencing agreement with the State and was sentenced to five years correction supervision.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous instructions and change of legal counsel, the trial only commenced this year.
The social worker and foster siblings were called to testify.
The siblings told the court the victim was always protected by their father and confirmed she had told them of the rape but they were too scared of punishment to report the matter.
Bester told the court the CPO, Dingiswayo played an integral role in the matter, as the victim was scared to attend court for consultation with the State.
“Ms Dingiswayo played such an integral role in this matter, as the victim was scared when coming to court for a consultation with myself. Nobody ever believed her, so why would I? Ms Dingiswayo held her hand in counselling sessions, always motivating her, and just being a true mother to the complainant, showering her with love,” Bester submitted.
“My path with the victim was initially difficult, as she felt the system had failed her, but with the help of the CPO, Rape Crisis, and just believing in her, our trust relationship grew and she was so comfortable at the trial stage and wanted to testify in an open court and not via CCTV,” she said.
The victim, who is currently studying financial management, is said to have forged a strong bond with Bester, Dingiswayo and the investigating officer from the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offence (FCS) Unit in Khayelitsha.
In her testimony during aggravation of sentence, the victim told the court she felt as if the rapes were her fault and believed if her biological mother had never birthed her this would never have happened.
She expressed her distrust towards black men and told the court she was emotionally dead inside. She said many did not believe her and she thanked the State, along with those involved for finally making her feel like she was part of a family.
The court ordered for the victim to receive ongoing counselling.
Director of Public Prosecutions in the Western Cape, advocate Nicolette Bell lauded the prosecution and investigating team and the most crucial role played by the CPO.
“Our CPOs are behind-the-scenes officials who play the most crucial role in empowering victims, helping them claim their lives, their dignity, face their abusers head-on and assisting to secure sentences fitting the crimes.
“I also want to call on parents, teachers, and community members to listen and believe reports of abuse from our children. They have no reason to lie about their abuses unless they are influenced by adults,” Bell said.