SINGAPORE — A man who tried to force a sexual act on his seven-year-old stepdaughter was sentenced to eight years and six months' jail and 12 strokes of the cane on Wednesday (21 April).
The girl, now 16, had not realised that what her "papa" had done was wrong until five years later, when she attended sex education at the age of 12.
The man pleaded guilty to attempting to penetrate the mouth of the girl in 2012. Both victim and offender cannot be named to protect the girl's identity.
In 2012, the man, the victim's mother, the victim, and her sister lived in a flat.
The victim was very close to the man, whom she called "papa". While alone in the flat with the man one day in 2012, she heard the man call her. The girl was seven years old then.
She went to the kitchen and saw that the man was naked.
The man asked the girl to follow him into the kitchen toilet and she complied. He then asked her to perform oral sex on her, but the girl did not understand him and did not respond.
The man then attempted to force himself on the girl but did not succeed even as he pushed the back of the girl's head towards him.
A few seconds later, the victim’s mother returned home and knocked on the front door, asking for it to be opened. The man instructed the girl to open the door and she did so.
The girl only realised what her stepfather did to her was wrong when she learned sex education in school at the age of 12. She told her mother about the incident in an argument with her in July 2019.
The victim lodged a police report on 2 September 2019.
When confronted by his wife, the man maintained his innocence. He denied the acts to the police and claimed that the victim had a motive to lie about her in the police report as she supposedly held a grudge against him for disciplining her.
He admitted to the act only after he was confronted with more evidence.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Kee sought a jail term of eight years and six months, with 12 strokes of the cane.
He cited the girl's young age, her close relationship with the man, and the man's attempt to victim-blame as aggravating factors.
"In betraying the close familial relationship and trust that was reposed in him by his then seven-year-old stepdaughter, the accused... was foiled solely because of the fortuitous and unexpected return of her mother to their apartment unit," the prosecutor said.
The man, who was unrepresented, asked for leniency and the "lightest possible sentence" saying that his parents were "continuously ill".
District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz described the abuse of trust in this case as "grave".
She told the man, "The victim had been entitled to expect that you, as her stepfather, a man she was very close to and addressed as 'papa', would protect her from harm rather than inflict it yourself."
Although the girl had clearly not comprehended the nature of the act, it had remained "etched in the recesses of her mind", noted the judge.
For sexually penetrating a child under 14, the man could have been jailed between eight and 20 years, with caning of at least 12 strokes.
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