Warning: Details in this article may be upsetting for some readers.
What was meant to be a fun weekend dip with her uncle in her rural school's swimming pool turned into a rape vividly recalled 40 years later, a former Northland woman told police.
She is one of seven females related to the man to allege childhood sexual abuse by him in Northland and elsewhere. They are scheduled to give evidence in a jury trial that began in Whangarei District Court yesterday and will run into next week.
The man, in his 50s, cannot be named due to automatic suppression of the complainant's identities.
He has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges – some representative of multiple offences - arising from each of the succession of complainant's claims: 18 counts of indecencies with underaged girls; rape; six counts of sexual violation – three by rape and three by unlawful sexual connection; and five counts of sexual conduct with a child overseas – one of the complainants while they were both living in Australia.
The charges span more than 30 years and reflect the legislation as it stood at various different times. The man must be tried, where applicable, in accordance with previous law.
The date ranges on a set of charges relating to one complainant suggest the man might have been 14 when he offended against her.
The first witness, interviewed in an evidential video shown to the jury yesterday, said she was 11 or 12 when her uncle - then possibly 16 or 18 - raped her at the school pool.
It was not the first or last time he sexually offended against her. There were multiple offences that started when she was eight and ended when she was about 14, the woman said.
But that rape was one incident she specifically recalled.
No one else was at the pool when her uncle took her into a changing room and forced himself on her.
The sound of two girls arriving made him stop. He jumped up and told her to go home then hid in a nook by the pool pumps.
As she left, she said hello to one of the girls – her teacher's daughter who she knew from school, the woman said.
At home, she washed off the blood and got dressed, rinsed off her towel and the shorts she was wearing then carried on as if nothing had happened. She did not tell her parents when they arrived home later.
Asked by the interviewer about her uncle's other alleged offending against her, the woman said it often happened during big family get-togethers at places typically "crawling with people".
Her uncle found opportunities to offend which usually involved them "heavy petting", kissing, and him making her masturbate him.
The woman said after the incident at the pool, he often tried to have sex with her but she was wary and would leave.
Over the years, she discussed the alleged offending with her older sister. Sometimes she also spoke to her brother about it – usually when they were drinking, the woman said.
She also claimed to have had a conversation with the man about his abuse of her. It came up in a conversation about 20 years later when he and his wife were giving her a ride home, the woman said.
Something made her uncle say, "you know what we did, that was just tutu-ing [playing] around".
His wife said: "yeah, that's right, he didn't mean anything by it".
The woman said she "brushed it off and ignored" the exchange.
During the Crown's opening prosecutor Mike Smith told jurors the issue for them was whether the offending happened – whether they believed the complainants.
The case relied on the complainant's evidence but there would also be supporting evidence from other family members – not direct eyewitness evidence, which was rare in these sorts of cases but about their observations of various family dynamics.
A clinical psychologist will give general evidence about common misconceptions of child sex victims' behaviours, why victims might delay reporting abuse, and why they might maintain a relationship with their alleged abuser.
Smith said the accused was actually a favourite uncle of some of the complainants. Aside from this offending, he was the fun uncle. They loved him, they just did not like what he did to them.
The accused is represented by counsel Russell Boot.
Judge Gene Tomlinson is presiding.
SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
• Text 4334 and they will respond
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat
Alternatively, contact your local police station.