Jailed for life for protecting her baby's rapist
Mom refuses to disclose rapist's identity - now he is a still a free man
Baby M’s mother has been sentenced to life behind bars for shielding her rapist from prosecution, but the man who violated the infant when she was only two months old remains a free man.
The 29-year-old mother of three sobbed as Johannesburg High Court Acting Judge Carla van Veenendal found there was no legal basis for her not to impose the minimum sentence for baby rape on her: life behind bars.
“The defence argued that the accused was the primary caregiver of the victim and therefore should qualify for deviation from the minimum sentence. However, juxtaposed against that proposition is the fact that the accused failed as a mother in that she did not protect her extremely vulnerable child against a grown-up man and continues to protect the identify of that man – at the cost of her own future and her family’s,” the acting judge said.
She added: “The accused owed the victim her protection as her upper guardian and betrayed her child.”Van Veenendal noted that her sentence had been imposed on a “unique case” – in which the person who abetted the rapist had faced trial, but the rapist himself had not been put on trial.
Key to her ruling was the woman’s refusal to even acknowledge that the infant that had been raped – and her insistence that the little one had been injured after falling off her bed, with her legs open.
This testimony was radically contradicted by the doctor who examined and treated Baby M for her extremely severe injuries, which required extensive reconstructive surgery.
Semenal fluid had been found on the baby, but forensic investigators could not extract a DNA profile from the sample.Acting Judge van Veenendal pointed out that Baby M’s mother “still fails to explain how the injuries could be made inside the child, but not outside, despite the diaper and no other injuries or abrasions”.
During evidence before the court, it emerged that the young woman was in an abusive marriage, and suffered “emotional, psychological, economic and social abuse”. Her husband had admitted to cheating on her repeatedly, and had failed to show her any real support while she was in prison.
The young woman, the court noted, “has no access to money in prison, she has no family to visit her, and she has no friends to visit her”.
“The accused has threatened to leave her husband, but has not done so.”
From the evidence led in court, it was clear that whoever Baby M’s mother was protecting, was not doing anything to assist or support her.Yet, she continues to insist that her daughter was not raped.
“The question in the instant matter is whether the accused in this case showed remorse or regret. Although the accused was extremely tearful, sometimes sobbing loudly, and although she indicated that she may commit suicide, which may indicate a severe depression, she persisted in a version that kept on changing and being adapted upon cross-examination.
“On the objective evidence: a male person penetrated the private parts of the child, tearing her in the process,” Acting Judge van Veenendal said.
“How this happened, only the accused knows. This leaves the court with the puzzling question of what pressure was put on the accused not to tell. And why.
“But the accused is not taking the court into her confidence. As long as she refuses to take the court into her confidence, the court cannot find that there is true remorse, indicated by a change of heart and an unburdening.”
The lawyer representing Baby M’s mother has indicated she will seek leave to appeal both her conviction for abetting the rape of her daughter and defeating the ends of justice – as well as her life sentence.
Baby M, who is now one year and eight months old, is currently living with her aunt and two brothers in Mozambique.