Justice alarmed by rising number of rape cases

Samoa’s children, especially young girls, are at risk with the apparent prevalence of rape offenses.

The point was made by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren when she sentenced Gasologa Matamua, 34, from Salelologa, to 16 years in jail for raping a 13-year-old girl. 

“The charge of rape carries the highest penalty available under the criminal law and that is imprisonment for life,” Justice Tafaoimalo said.

Matamua was accused of rape, sexual connection and indecent act. He was found guilty by assessors after jury trial last month.  

Justice Tafaoimalo issued a suppression order to protect the identity of the victim. The order does not extend to the defendant. 

Justice Tafaoimalo noted that according to the evidence, the victim was sent by her mother in the evening to the accused’s family to order coconuts for the next day. These coconuts are sold by the victim’s family at the wharf. 

The homes of the victim and the accused are in close proximity in the same village. When the victim arrived, the accused was burning rubbish next to his faleo’o.

“The victim asked him about the coconuts and the accused told her to come and look at the toga niu which is behind his faleo’o. She went and looked at the toga niu but did not see any coconuts so she turned to leave.

“The accused lifted her up and carried her with her head down and legs in the air, into his faleo’o.” 

She said that’s when the victim was raped. 

“She found an opportunity to scream and that is when the accused wore his ie and ran away. The victim returned home and told her mother what had happened.” 

“There has been no reconciliation with the victim’s family.

“The accused was given an opportunity to say something before sentencing. 

“He made a comment about appealing the assessor’s verdict. 

“He showed no remorse. His lack of remorse was astonishing,” said Justice Tafaoimalo during sentencing. 

It was also heard in court that the defendant was previously convicted for theft in 1997.

The aggravating features of this offending are firstly, the age of the victim. 

The younger the victim of a sexual offence, the greater the need for protection, said the Supreme Court Justice. 

“The age difference of 21 years is also an aggravating factor. 

“The accused is an adult of 34 years, as opposed to this young girl who is 13 years old.

“He planned his offending because he knew he was alone and there was no one in his faleoo. 

“He lured her to the back by telling her to look in the toga niu for coconuts in an attempt to get her closer to him and to the faleoo. 

“He knew she had come alone to order the coconuts. 

“He carried her into the faleoo so she would not run away.

“Rape is an inherently violent act,” said Justice Tafaoimalo. 

“As part of raping her, he forcibly carried her into the faleoo and he put a pillow over her mouth so that she would not scream, which would have been terrifying for the young victim. 

“The physical and psychological impact on the victim is taken into account as an aggravating feature.” 

According to Justice Tafaoimalo, this is yet another case of an adult raping a child, a child known to him and from the same village. 

“The prevalence of this offending has become apparent and our children are at risk. Deterrence is of the highest importance, followed closely by the need to hold the accused accountable for the harm done to the victim.

“It is sad that a seemingly innocent act of running to the neighbours to order coconuts has resulted in such devastating consequences for this young victim.”

She said rape was one of the most serious crimes as stated in the legislative provisions of most societies and was always regarded as such at common law. 

“The reasons are self-evident.”

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