By ALPHONSE BARIASI
JUSTICE for victims of sexual violence by close relatives is still not being administered as quickly as it should, a disillusioned mother says.
Despite the public outcry against the more heinous of such crimes that have become public, the referral pathway to justice has so many obstacles that many would simply give up fighting.
And when money is involved, like the lady in this true story believes – and incompetence is explained away by those expected to ensure it is delivered – there is very little hope for the victim.
It is another case of a very frustrated and scared mother who has all but given up any hope of getting any assistance from the justice system in in the country.
Not only has her marriage been severely tested and eventually ended in an ugly divorce but her children have suffered sexual abuse also.
Due to the very real danger for the victim and mother of victims, names of people and some places have been substituted.
We shall call her Julia.
She grew up in a staunch Christian family and after successful primary and secondary education, enrolled at the University of PNG to do a course in marine biology.
While still in third year of university she fell pregnant with her first child whose father was a senior student.
Marriage was inevitable so the couple moved in together with her first son, a boy after she graduated.
After 11 years of a marriage that started from campus romance with promises of a wonderful life of careers, success and prosperity, things began to take a negative turn for Julia.
Although there were red flags along the way, the mother of four young children chose to ignore those warnings and gave her whole heart to the man she had loved.
In 2017, however, the verbal, psychological and physical abuse just got so unbearable she had to leave. It reached a point where the man not only cheated on her but also sent pornographic images of his activities with other women to her.
“He was very abusive toward me, I still bear the scars of the abuse. He cheated on me; I caught him several times,” says Julia.
“In 2019, while we were already separated, he did porn with other ladies and send pictures to me.
“I was even attacked using sorcery. I have grown up in a strong Christian home but this sorcery thing is very real. Just like God is real, the devil and his evil angels are real too.”
She survived the attack through prayer, she recalls.
The final straw for her was in February 2020 when she flew to Lae and caught her man with another woman and a child about the same age as her own last born.
She then travelled to his highlands home where she sought a formal divorce through the local village court because a customary bride price was paid for her. The man did not appear at the village court more than once so an ex-parte decision ended the marriage.
Julia continues her story: “I walked out with my only my wallet and a small suitcase. Everything that was part of our family business is with him. I built a big house in his home town and another in the capital. Now he is enjoying everything I had worked hard for.”
Julia now only lives with their four children with a cousin in the city.
In 2020 the couple obtained a bank loan for their family business but since their divorce, the man has not helped in repaying the loan and Julia is seeking legal assistance to make him pay.
Having divorced the man, she thought the proper thing to do was to let the children’s father still have access to them. They were by then living with their grandmother (husband’s mother) in Port Moresby.
When she returned to the city she went to reassure them.
“I told them ‘I’m here. I just divorced your father but I can’t take you to where I am but I will visit you from time to time.
“But I could tell from their physical appearance that all was not well.” They pulled her aside and the first born son told her about how he was sexually assaulted by their father’s step brother in their grandmother’s home.
“The father did nothing when told about the incident.”
Julia’s whole world felt like it was crumbling all around her.
“I immediately called the Boroko Sexual Offences Squad (SOS) and had a medical check later proved that my boy had been abused.”
But that was not all.
Earlier, in 2017 when she was separated from her husband the second born daughter was in the care of her father.
One day, when Julia went to see her, the daughter complained about pains in her private parts but she did not take that seriously.
But in 2020 when she called from her husband’s home town, the child again said the same thing.
Julia travelled to Port Moresby and took all the three children in for medical checks.
“The father was called in and I could sense panic in him. The medical checks proved that my daughter had also been abused. I almost broke down.
“They had to do HIV tests also on my son and daughter but fortunately the results returned negative.
“My daughter had been abused by a relative of her father’s and later by the father himself.
“The first time the father did it when all three children were asleep in their family home. The second time they were alone when the father approached her in her room.
“With the help of welfare officers, I was able to take the kids away from the father and police later arrested and charged the father and his relative.”
Julia says the accused were arrested by the SOS but later released. All medical records confirm that her children had been sexually abused.
“I can clearly recall when they were arrested, a Monday in June 2020. However, they were released the next day. I was told by a female police office that it was “a small family matter that could be sorted out at home.
“I even saw my ex-husband with bundles of money at the police station on the day they were released and I wondered what all that money was for. I have a strong suspicion that someone at the police station was bought.”
She approached the metropolitan superintendent and the regional commander about the case and they had issued orders to arrest the perpetrators again.
Since then no further progress has been made on the case.
Julia says it is a lonely battle but she was patient and prayed to God through it all.
She says she had lived with sorcery, adultery, a divorce and now the sexual abuse of her children including incest.
“I’ve been fighting this case and have exhausted all avenues. I now live with fear for my own safety as well because I have twice been followed by a stranger. I cannot move out of Port Moresby because the kid’s father has a network of tribesmen who can do anything to stop me from seeking justice for my children. They might even try to kill me.
“I’m fighting this case alone. There is no support from my family and even the police. My own safety is at stake. Who is going to provide for my kids? We need to go somewhere conducive where we can forget all this horrid past and start our lives anew.
“Because the kids’ father also took part in the crime, he did not assist in terms of the children’s welfare, daily upbringing and school fees.
He said he would not assist me but let me feel the pain of single parenting.
“Since our divorce up until now, we have received nothing from him. I have been looking after the kids myself. It’s painful though.”
Her experience, her moments of hopelessness and helplessness have made her disheartened and she calls for a strengthening of the referral pathway in cases of family and sexual abuse.
She is praying that justice for her children is delivered quicker. But more than that, she would like to grab any opportunity to move to a foreign land where her children could get the past behind them and live normal lives.