Romania: Sexual abuse victim hopes for human rights court victory

A victim of sexual abuse hopes human rights judges will agree tomorrow, that Romania’s legislation for the prosecution of rape and/or sexual abuse of children is inadequate.

A European Court of Human Rights decision on the complaint M. G. C. v. Romania (no. 61495/11) is expected tomorrow, Tuesday 15 March.

The applicant, Ms M.G.C., is a Romanian national who was born in 1997 and lives in Deva (Romania). Aged 11 years old at the time, she alleges that she was raped between August 2008 and February 2009 at a neighbouring family’s house, where she often went to play with two girls of the same age.

The applicant says that she was raped on two occasions in that period by J.V., a 52-year-old relative of her neighbours who was unemployed and living in the family’s vacant cattle stable, as well as by her neighbours’ sons and one of their friends. She eventually told her mother about the sexual abuse in March 2009, saying that she had been too ashamed to talk about it earlier and afraid because J.V. had threatened to beat her if she told anyone.

As a result of the sexual abuse, Ms M.G.C. became pregnant and had to have an abortion.

On learning of the abuse, M.G.C.’s parents immediately lodged a complaint with the local police against J.V. and the neighbours’ four sons. During the preliminary investigation, the police ordered a psychiatric evaluation of M.G.C. The ensuing report concluded that she was suffering from posttraumatic stress and, due to her young age, had difficulties in foreseeing the consequences of her acts.

The case was subsequently forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation.

In December 2009, finding that it had not been proved beyond doubt that M.G.C. had not given consent to the sexual acts, the prosecutor indicted J.V. for the crime of sexual intercourse with a minor.

The neighbours’ sons were given an administrative fine for the same crime.

The domestic courts, in a final judgment of March 2011, found J.V. guilty of sexual intercourse with a minor and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment. The courts noted that no signs of violence had been detected on M.G.C.’s body and, taking into consideration the statements by J.V. and the neighbours’ sons that Ms M.G.C. had acted provocatively and the fact that she had not told her parents about any abuse or discontinued going to play at her neighbours’ house, came to the conclusion that she had initiated the incidents of sexual intercourse.

Relying on Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), M.G.C. alleges that Romanian law and practice did not provide effective protection of children against rape and sexual abuse.

In particular, in Romania the crime of rape requires a lack of consent on the victim’s part, which was impossible for her to prove because there were no signs of violence on her body.

Furthermore, the authorities, ignoring the results of her psychiatric examination, refused to take into consideration that her young age and vulnerability were factors contributing to her attitude towards the abuse.

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