Rape victim confronts abuser in court

The man was arrested last year and charged with historic sexual abuse. Photo: File
The man was arrested last year and charged with historic sexual abuse. Photo: File
A woman who was sexually abused as a child confronted her abuser in court yesterday, telling him the secret was like "a cancer" eating away at her family and her life.

During a lengthy sentencing at the Nelson District Court the woman spoke of her years of pain and suffering, and how she had finally come forward from a desire to help herself and others.

Graeme Stephen McLean was today sentenced to eight years and five months in prison for a string of offences in relation to two women.

They include historic rape and indecent assault charges dating back to the 1970s against one of the victims, and similar charges throughout the 1990s against another.

The retired 66-year-old was charged last October, and admitted the offences soon after.

McLean, who did not object to the victims' request for his name suppression to be lifted, appeared in court by audio visual link from where he is being held in custody. He rocked and sobbed as details of his offending were read out, and at one stage held his head in his hands.

One of the victims read out a statement detailing the life-long consequences of his offending on her.

She stood resolute, calm and tearful as she delivered her life-story of trauma; the childhood of which she was robbed and the consequences for her as an adult, which she was determined would not define her.

"I am not a product of my trauma. It has shaped me but it is simply a chapter in a story that is still being written."

She also spoke of the immense courage it had taken to come forward, and her worry over the conflict and despair it would cause her family, but the offender needed to be held to account so she could move forward.

"I was afraid of what knowledge of these events would have on the family, and I was afraid no one would believe me.

"It has taken immense courage to come forward and share my story," the woman told the court, with the help of a supporter who stood close by.

She said the "secret had been a cancer" eating away at the family and her life.

The woman said the impact on her was reflected in childhood photos, in which changes in her were noted from the age of four. By the time she was 8 years-old, the changes were clear in her body language, and in how the joy had been lost from her eyes.

It was through counselling later on she began to understand the source of her anxiety and behaviours later identified as being linked to a medical condition and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"You not only violated my body but the very core of my being," the woman told her offender in court today.

She told of feeling unwanted, used and unloved, of feeling dirty and exposed, and how many times she was "only a commodity", and how in public her offender had been doting and caring.

She was only now beginning to erase the scars, and to understand she was not to blame, through her strong faith and supportive community.

"I am now figuring out who I really am. It's a painful, but beautiful process.

"You have taken so much from me but you haven't destroyed me. A lot come to this wanting vengeance but this it not about getting even, it's about accountability."

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber read out the statement on behalf of the second victim, who had suffered similar life-long emotional trauma from the shame of what had occurred.

McLean admitted charges of rape, indecent assault and sexual violation dating back to 1970, when he was a teenager. The offending occurred for several years, from when the victim was 7 years-old.

Webber said it had resulted in the victim living a life of shame, and had also left its mark in the resulting psychological disorders she too had suffered, and continues to suffer. Some of it was linked to her having repressed so much, for so long.

The victim who appeared in court today wept as she listened, and as Judge Tony Zohrab sentenced McLean.

He said McLean's offending had had an incalculable effect on the victims, the first of whom had lived a life of shame and nightmares, from the age of 7.

"It's clear that long after you have gone - after you have died, your offending will continue to have an impact," Judge Zohrab said.

He said aggravating features including the ages of the victims at the time the offending began, and their extreme vulnerability.

McLean was sentenced to eight years and five months in prison on the lead charge of rape of the recent victim. The sentence was reduced from a hefty starting point for his early guilty plea. The court heard this went some way to proving his remorse was genuine, and for saving the victims the pain of a trial.

The Restorative Justice process was available to McLean post-sentence.

- By Tracy Neal
Open Justice multimedia journalist

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