SINGAPORE - A woman told her niece who had been raped by her husband not to tell the doctor that she had consumed bleach as it would have exposed his sexual offences, a court heard on Tuesday (June 21).
The girl's 47-year-old paternal aunt was sentenced to six months' jail after pleading guilty to intentionally preventing the course of justice on Dec 20, 2012.
A second charge of failing to report her husband's rape of the 14-year-old girl was considered during her sentencing.
Her 55-year-old husband is now serving 20 years' jail for rape, sexually assaulting and molesting the girl in 2010 and 2012. She was then 12 and 13.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Michael Quilindo said the accused, a school canteen stall operator, was taking a nap in the master bedroom of the flat on Dec 20, 2012, when her husband woke her up after sexually assaulting the victim in the living room.
The girl subsequently asked her aunt what would happen if someone drank bleach. Her aunt said the person would feel a "burning sensation" and would "bubble in the mouth".
Distraught about the earlier assault, the girl filled a cup with water, bleach and soap powder, drank it and vomited.
The accused heard her violent retching and found her vomiting in the room. Her husband dissuaded her from taking the girl to the hospital, saying that it would result in a police report.
The accused then took the girl to a private clinic and told her not to tell the doctor what she drank.
A few days later, she gave her niece $50, claiming that it had been given to her by a relative.
Knowing what had happened between her husband and her niece, the accused also asked for another chance to "protect her".
"As the victim pitied her aunt and did not want to cause problems within the family, she kept mum about the offences until her noticeable absence from school in January 2013 was queried by a counsellor,'' said DPP Quilindo.
Mr Rajan Supramaniam, assigned by the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said his client was extremely remorseful and made no excuse for her actions.
He said her role in the offence was blinded purely by her love and devotion to her husband.
Arguing for a sentence of at least six months' jail to be imposed, DPP Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said if the deception had continued, the victim would have continued living with her tormentor whose offending behaviour had escalated in both degree and brazenness.
"Victims of familial sexual abuse invariably feel additional pressure from family members not to expose the rapist out of a misguided reaction to preserve the unity of the family," DPP Sripathy-Shanaz said.
"The isolation and lack of family support exacerbates the victim's trauma and helplessness."
She said the court must send a clear message that those who seek to protect and shield rapists and sexual offenders from the penal consequences of their actions will face the full brunt of the law.
The maximum punishment is seven years and a fine.