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The Straits Times
Nov 28, 2023
A manager at a youth leadership development firm and his wife decided to adopt a mentally scarred girl who had been sexually abused by her father after her mother’s suicide.
Instead of protecting the 16-year-old, the manager, a father of two young boys, preyed on her vulnerability.
He repeatedly subjected her to multiple forms of sexual penetration, including sodomy.
The acts took place almost every day between September and mid-November 2020.
On Nov 28, the 39-year-old man, who is no longer working at the company, was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and nine strokes of the cane.
The offender, who cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the victim’s identity, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of exploitative sexual penetration of a minor of or above 16 but below 18 years of age.
This case is the first prosecution of someone who committed an offence under the new Section 376AA of the Penal Code.
The prosecution said: “Before 2020, minors between 16 and 18 years old were only protected from commercial sexual exploitation under Section 376B of the Penal Code.
“After considering the recommendations of the Penal Code Review Committee, Parliament enacted Section 376AA… to protect minors between 16 and 18 years old who are subjected to exploitative penetrative sexual activity.”
The girl was 13 in June 2017 when her mother killed herself in front of her. As a result, the girl suffered from adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
In January 2018, her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately.
Court documents did not disclose what happened next, but she later overdosed on antidepressants and was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health from Jan 11 to 19, 2018.
She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She was removed from her father’s care in March 2018 and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) placed her in the care of a family friend.
In June 2018, one of her close friends committed suicide, and the girl later engaged in self-harm by repeatedly using a blade to cut her limbs.
Assessed to be a suicide risk, she was placed in a centre designed to help girls who suffered trauma or abuse reintegrate into society.
The company that the offender was working in was running a camp for girls in June 2019. This was where he met the victim, who was a camp participant.
During the camp, she told the offender that she was hoping for foster care or adoption, as she could not return to her biological family.
The man’s wife agreed with his decision to adopt the girl. His family was later assessed by MSF to be suitable caregivers.
In September 2020, she was at the man’s home when he suggested that they take part in an activity. He told her to stand topless before a mirror and describe what she saw while he stood blindfolded nearby.
She did not know what the activity was for, but assumed that it might be some form of therapy for her.
Soon after, he started to rub her chest, claiming that it would help her body release some “love chemicals”.
This happened on multiple occasions and she allowed him to do so as she trusted the man and felt close to him.
One evening in September 2020, the girl, who had trouble sleeping alone, was on a bed with the man when he made her sexually stimulate him.
He then sexually penetrated her and later told her in a text message that “touching need not be sexual and it could be for healing”.
The next day, he entered her room while his wife was in the master bedroom and performed a similar act on the teenager. He went on to target her almost every day until November 2020.
He would sometimes use his mobile phone to take photographs and videos of the sexual acts. The victim knew she was being recorded.
In October 2020, he addressed himself as “daddy” and had unprotected sex with the girl, who was a virgin. On another occasion, he sodomised the victim and left her in pain for the next few days.
In early November 2020, she felt guilty and told him to stop the sexual acts. He agreed to do so but, later that month, he indicated that he wanted her to perform oral sex on him.
She did so while his wife was in another room.
The court heard that the girl felt guilty after the sexual acts and started harming herself again. She also felt that she was “trash and worthless”.
She told a teacher about her ordeal and the latter alerted the police. The adoption also did not go through.
On Nov 28, the man’s bail was set at $80,000. He is expected to surrender at the State Courts in January 2024 to begin serving his sentence.
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
Chat, Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health: 6493-6500/1
Women’s Helpline (Aware): 1800-777-5555 (weekdays, 10am to 6pm)
TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252
TOUCH Care Line (for seniors, caregivers): 6804-6555
Care Corner Counselling Centre: 6353-1180
Counselling and Care Centre: 6536-6366
carey.carecorner.org.sg (for those aged 13 to 25)
limitless.sg/talk (for those aged 12 to 25)