Sikh wife wins praise for reporting abuse

By Corey Charlton

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A man was found guilty at the Napier District Court this week for abusing his wife, who has since has been praised by authorities for speaking out about her suffering.
A man was found guilty at the Napier District Court this week for abusing his wife, who has since has been praised by authorities for speaking out about her suffering.

An Indian woman who broke away from her arranged marriage to tell police of her husband's recurring sexual attacks and beatings was particularly brave, police say.

Yesterday a Hastings man was found guilty by a jury at the Napier District Court on multiple counts of rape, assault and threatening to kill for a series of attacks against his wife in 2012.

He cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim, who came to New Zealand from India after wedding him in an arranged Sikh marriage.

The jury spent more than four hours deliberating on Tuesday and yesterday, before returning guilty verdicts on eight charges and a not guilty verdict on one charge. It was hung on another eight charges.

The court heard the man kept a 45cm-long knife by their bed to intimidate and frighten his wife into having sex. As well, he physically abused and threatened to kill her.

Hastings police detective Rob Parker said it showed domestic violence and that type of abuse ``exists in all facets of society, it doesn't matter the culture or the demographic''.

``It is happening and I think it is a really positive result for this particular complainant, mainly for the cultural issues at play that we heard during the trial.

``In this instance, this complainant has been particularly brave. She had no one to turn to. Not only was she battling the cultural aspect, but she was in a foreign country,'' he said.

During the trial the court heard how divorce in an arranged Sikh marriage was not something ``done lightly''.

``I spent some time liaising with partner agencies and in particular people from these agencies with Indian heritage. A manager of a domestic violence support agency in Auckland was particularly helpful with providing background knowledge,'' Mr Parker said.

This cultural barrier was yesterday corroborated by a Women's Refuge spokeswoman, who said isolation, cultural and religious issues and language barriers compounded what was a ``serious problem'' in migrant ethnic communities.

Essentially, the husband was found guilty of offending on December 3, December 25 and 26 in 2012, but the jury could not reach a verdict on representative charges, where there were alleged to have been numerous offences committed over a long period of time.

When police attended a domestic violence incident at the couple's home on Boxing Day, 2012, the woman confessed she was being raped and also beaten.

Crown prosecutor Steve Manning said officers discovered the ``terrified, frightened woman'' hiding behind a car on the driveway while her drunk husband was inside watching television. She had bruised arms, which a doctor said was consistent with being grabbed.

The jury also saw a police interview conducted by Mr Parker in early 2013, where the offender denied any sex had occurred without consent.

Following yesterday's verdict, the defendant was remanded in custody by Judge Tony Adeane for sentencing on April 10.

Meanwhile, a Women's Refuge spokeswoman says brutal and intimate partner violence is a serious problem in some of New Zealand's migrant ethnic communities.

It included honour killings, dowry-related violence, forced marriage, sexual violence and rape within marriage.

``This violence is compounded by cultural issues, isolation, religion, and language barriers and too often inappropriate responses from agencies,'' she said. ``It is a really specialised area . . . Because there are also cultural elements to that violence, so it needs a really specialised response and we've got a long way to go in that regard.''

Incidents of such violence were increasing within New Zealand, and she believed it had a lot to do with population growth.

The Hastings branch of the NZ Sikh Society could not be reached for comment.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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