SINGAPORE, Feb 20 — Even after she locked her bedroom door and her older brother barricaded the door with school bags, a stepfather persisted in gaining entry to his 13-year-old stepdaugher’s bedroom to sexually assault her on multiple occasions.

The man, now 37 years old, was sentenced to 14 years’ jail and 20 strokes of the cane yesterday (February 19).

He pleaded guilty to two charges of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter, who was aged 13 and 14 when the offences took place.

Nine other charges including outrage of modesty, attempted sexual assault and sexual assault were taken into consideration for sentencing. These offences dated back to when the girl was 11.

The man and the girl’s name cannot be published due to a court order protecting the victim’s identity.

What happened

In May 2019, when the victim was 11 to 12 years old, she moved into a flat with her mother and two brothers. The man moved into the flat after he married the victim’s mother in July that year.

After that, the girl regarded the man as her father and called him “papa”, the court heard.

The man began performing sexual acts on her in late 2019.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Grace Chua said that the victim believed this to be “normal fatherly behaviour” at the time, before she realised after about three weeks that her stepfather did not touch her brothers in a similar manner.

She then informed her mother about what had happened, after which the mother told the man to stop. He stopped only for about a week, before resuming and escalating his sexual acts on the girl.

Later in 2019, the man started to visit the girl’s bedroom when she and the rest of the family were asleep.

He would expose his private parts and sexually abuse her about twice a week. The girl, who was afraid of the dark and slept with a night light, would wake up to see her hand placed on his private parts.

The victim was afraid and confused, pretending to be asleep.

In January 2020, the stepfather began lying down with the girl on her bed and touched her over her clothes, before escalating to touching her under her clothing in early 2021.

Undeterred by stepchildren blocking door

When the man’s parents moved into their flat in February 2021, the victim moved into a bedroom with her two brothers.

She would sleep on a bunk bed in her brothers’ bedroom, occupying the top bunk bed, while one brother slept on the lower bunk bed and the other slept on a mattress on the floor.

Even with his stepsons in the shared bedroom, the man persisted in sexually abusing the girl after his stepsons were asleep, DPP Chua said.

On one occasion, he tried to have sexual intercourse but the girl kicked him away as she felt pain, after which the man retreated.

The girl tried to lock the bedroom door before she went to sleep, but her stepfather who had all the room keys in the flat would unlock the bedroom door at night.

When the door lock broke in mid-2021, the man removed the doorknob and door lock to his stepchildren’s bedroom.

The victim’s older brother first noticed his stepfather entering their bedroom in September 2021, when he was awakened by movements of the bunk bed.

He initially thought that the man was checking on his sister, and when he asked her what was happening the next morning, the girl told him, “Papa disturb me”.

After seeing his stepfather enter the bedroom on several more occasions, the brother felt that it was strange and started blockading the bedroom door using school bags and boxes from their school books before going to sleep.

The man was undeterred from entering the stepchildren’s bedroom, despite their efforts.

Sometime in 2021, the victim told her older brother that the man had asked her to “do that thing”. The older brother then urged his sister to inform their mother, but she refused.

After this, the victim’s older brother would watch videos on his mobile phone at a loud volume when his stepfather entered the room, to indicate that he was awake.

However, the man was not deterred and continued to climb to the victim’s bed and touch her inappropriately.

The man continued his sexual assault of his stepdaughter when she was 13 and 14 years old. After the deeds, he would climb down from her bunk bed and leave the room.

The court heard that while she did not consent to any of the acts and felt pain, she did not dare to stop him and believed that he would not stop even if she told him to.

Serious abuse of trust

The sexual offences came to light when the victim made two online submissions to a website of a Singapore law firm in December 2021, stating that she had been sexually assaulted by her stepfather.

In her submissions, the girl said that she was terrified, but afraid to go to the police and was contemplating suicide.

The director of the law firm urged the girl to report the matter to the police and made a police report on her behalf on December 18, 2021, enclosing the girl’s web submissions.

The man was arrested by the police on the same day that the police report was filed.

The prosecution sought a sentence of 13 to 14 years’ jail and 20 strokes of the cane.

DPP Chua said that the man’s period of offending was “brazen and prolonged” since occurred over the course of two years.

She added that the man was undeterred by his stepchildren’s attempts to prevent him from entering the room. Instead, he would unlock the door, enter the bedroom and sexually assault the victim before he would “leave without a care”.

The stepfather’s offences reflected a “serious abuse of trust” as he took advantage of his access to the girl and turned the “sanctity” of her bedroom into a place where “her nightmares came alive”, DPP Chua said.

The man’s lawyer, Noor Mohamed Marican from law firm Marican and Associates, asked for a lighter sentence of eight years’ jail and 13 strokes of the cane.

He said that the man was pleading for mercy, and realised that he had let down many people, including the victim and his wife who would have to raise her children alone while he served his sentence.

In sentencing, Justice Aedit Abdullah called the man’s offences “horrendous” as the man made the victim become accustomed to sexual assault.

“Instead of bringing stability, being a father figure, helping to nurture the victim and her siblings... you affected her to the extent that the victim regarded your initial acts of molest as normally fatherly behaviour.”

The judge also noted that the sexual assault against the stepdaughter only stopped when a police report was made by the strangers she had turned to for help.

He commended the law firm that made a police report after being approached by the victim, for escalating the matter to the police.

Anyone who commits sexual assault by penetration against anyone below 14 years of age in a relationship that is exploitative of the victim can be jailed at least eight years and for up to 20 years. They will also receive at least 12 strokes of the cane.

Those who commit sexual assault by penetration can be jailed for up to 20 years, and be caned or fined. — TODAY