Jared Savage

Jared Savage is the New Zealand Herald's investigations editor.

We weren't violent so it wasn't rape, insist jailed abusers of girl

The boys' belief that being non-violent equates to being innocent of rape is an attitude Judge Rob Ronayne describes as 'very concerning'. Photo / Thinkstock
The boys' belief that being non-violent equates to being innocent of rape is an attitude Judge Rob Ronayne describes as 'very concerning'. Photo / Thinkstock

A pair of 16-year-old boys took turns having sex with an underage girl who was "almost comatose" from alcohol - but still believe they didn't rape her because they were not violent.

In a case with similarities to the "Roast Busters" scandal, the 15-year-old victim was heavily intoxicated and the two teenagers plotted to have sex with her.

After she was abused by each boy separately and left naked in a bedroom, she was further humiliated by a group who came in with their cellphones lit up and touched her.

Young Jin Bae and Hwaseop Jeong, now 20, were convicted of rape after a jury trial in the Auckland District Court. Bae was also found guilty of a sexual violation charge.

Both maintain their innocence as they did not act violently towards their former friend - an attitude Judge Robert Ronayne described as "very concerning".

"She was not able to consent and she was not able to ask you to stop because she was almost comatose from alcohol," he said in sentencing the pair to six years' imprisonment.

"Neither of you can have had any belief that your victim was consenting to what took place."

In February 2012, the youths were initially jailed for three and a half years. When they appealed, their sentences were almost doubled.

Lawyers argued the pair did not receive a fair trial because of problems with interpretation of evidence at the trial, and the Court of Appeal ruled there was a miscarriage of justice and ordered a retrial. In the Auckland District Court, they were again convicted of rape and this time got six years.

Sexual violence and gender issue experts said the youths' belief they did not rape the girl was disturbing, but not surprising.

Associate Professor Nicola Gavey, of the University of Auckland, said that while attitudes towards women and sex were improving, society still promoted mixed messages and many people still thought it was acceptable to think of women as objects.

"I can believe that the young men's own intoxication combined with their lack of maturity may have had a role in their making very poor decisions," said Professor Gavey.

"And that the wider cultural context provides them with ways of thinking about their sexual desires, about the girl's body and her rights, that make the whole violation more possible."

What was very problematic, though, was their ongoing refusal to acknowledge the serious wrong in what they had done. Dr Kim McGregor, of Rape Prevention Education, said there was a lack of quality sexual education, particularly around the issue of consent and the influence of pornography.

"Most men would be appalled at these sorts of attitudes and behaviour which show a total disrespect towards girls and women. But why do these young men have these misogynistic beliefs that girls are their playthings? And why did those boys come into the room with the cellphones, instead of ... stopping what was going on?

"It's a wider culture which makes them think these appalling attitudes are acceptable," Dr McGregor said.

Judge Ronayne said in his sentencing notes that the actions of Bae and Jeong had had a "devastating" effect on the girl with long-term consequences. "It is my view of the evidence that you clearly simply took a turn each to rape her. She was left naked and terrified, lying on Mr Jeong's bed, extremely vulnerable."

The debate about underage sex was ignited by the "Roast Busters" scandal late last year, after teenage boys boasted online of having group sex with drunk girls as young as 13.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey published last month showed 74.7 per cent of respondents believed high schools should teach more than the physical and medical aspects of sex and also emphasise respect for sexual partners.

- NZ Herald

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