WARNING: This story contains references to family violence and may be upsetting for some readers.
A teenage refugee was subjected to protracted, live-streamed beatings by her own family after supposedly bringing shame on them, a court has heard.
“What’s just absolutely appalling is that she was hit so many times she couldn’t tell the police even an approximate number of blows she’d received,” Judge Kevin Phillips said.
The victim’s mother appeared in the Dunedin District Court last year where she was sentenced to seven months’ home detention for her role in the violence.
On Thursday, the girl’s father received nine months on house arrest after he pleaded guilty to two charges of procuring the attacks while he was working in the North Island.
The couple were given name suppression to protect their daughter.
Tensions increased when the teenager began a romantic relationship with another young refugee and it progressed faster than the parents wanted.
After several months, on October 8, 2019, the mother discovered the couple had been communicating by cellphone.
The defendant video-called her husband using a social media site and voiced her concerns the girl’s conduct was bringing shame on their family.
The father then instructed his wife and sons to beat the victim.
For the next 20 minutes they laid into the girl using their hands, a metre-long draught-stopper filled with rice, a wooden stick and a leather belt.
The woman held her cellphone so her husband could watch the pummelling, which he “directed and encouraged”.
“The defendant yelled at the victim through the live video and audio feed that she deserved the beating,” court documents said.
Once it was over, the girl escaped from the house through her bedroom window.
Two days later, however, the victim’s mother again took issue with her behaviour:having lunch with her boyfriend without consent.
Again, she called her husband for advice and he told them to confiscate her phone and give her a hiding.
When they could not find the device, the boys took up their improvised weapons and began the attack.
From 5pm to midnight they scoured the house for the phone and intermittently struck the victim, until she escaped and went to police with her boyfriend.
The teenager received “significant” bruising from the dual bashing but said in a statement to the court she was not affected by what happened.
She wanted the family reunited and was not scared there would be a repeat of the violence.
Counsel for the defendants emphasised cultural reports which outlined a turbulent history before the family landed in New Zealand.
The husband was arbitrarily detained in his country and tortured during a time of extreme upheaval.
The reports, however, did not conclude that experience had directly caused the offending before the court.
The defendants had each been raised in a loving, caring, Muslim household, free of violence.
Judges at both sentencings were clear Islam was a religion of peace and familial violence was not acceptable for those who practised.
Counsel for the wife Brendan Stephenson said his client’s background, while not a direct cause of the offences, had to be acknowledged.
“It’s difficult for us to really appreciate and understand [the situation] because we don’t come from that culture or that faith,” he said.
Alex Bligh, who represented the husband, said the refugee experience was an intrinsic part of the episodes and the couple had felt a lack of support.
“They have felt ostracised in the community,” she said.
Refugees as Survivors New Zealand chief executive Sharron Ward condemned violence against children but said the public needed to better understand the refugee journey.
“We bring these people into New Zealand and they’ve been through hell in a hand basket,” she said.
“They’ve been through a lot of trauma and they need support.”
That assistance in regions outside the main centres was often lacking,Ward said.
The man will serve his home-detention sentence in the North Island, while his family remains in Dunedin.
Until September, any contact between the couple will be managed by Corrections.
If you're in danger NOW:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don’t stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women’s Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day – 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It’s Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence:www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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