CHIANG MAI, THAILAND- The girls were afraid to play outside. They were afraid when they heard the thrum of motorbikes passing by. The man who would take them on his motorbike and sexually abuse them still lived nearby.
Throughout a yearlong trial that ended a few weeks ago, he had denied allegations of sexual assault and rape. Until he heard the young girls testify. After he heard their emotional accounts, he broke down and confessed to the crimes.
He has been sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Now, the girls and other children from this small Northern Thailand village can play outside without fearing the return of this violent man.
Preying on the Poorest
This 61-year-old man had preyed on young girls from very poor families in this community. He snatched two of the victims, sisters aged 6 and 8 years old, while they played near their home. He carried them home on his motorbike, where he would sexually abuse them and then threaten them if they said anything. The girls said he would kill them if they ever told on him.
So they lived in fear, keeping the painful truth hidden.
Then last June, a teacher noticed one of the girls was in pain. The girl worked up the courage to share about what had happened to her—a man had sexually assaulted her the day before. The teacher immediately took all three girls (the two sisters plus their 6-year-old friend) to the hospital and told the police.
The man was arrested the very next day.
Police called IJM for assistance, and a social worker and psychologist met with the families. Victims of trauma often struggle to recount specific details or give a linear chronology of facts; in this case, the young ages compounded these challenges. Despite these difficulties, the man was ordered to stand trial on charges of kidnapping and rape. He pled guilty to kidnapping at a hearing in November 2015, but he denied having ever touched the girls inappropriately.
That is, until he heard the testimonies of the girls.
The Truth Comes Out
The final hearing took place on April 7. An IJM lawyer and social worker met with the girls the night before.
One by one, with tears on their small faces, the girls bravely shared testimonies from the witness stand. The grandmother and the mother of the 6-year-old also testified.
The man broke down and confessed, leading to a conviction and sentencing. Now, these three precious girls are protected as well as other children in their poor community.
"Praise the Lord that the children got justice in this case and are improving in their recovery,” declared Wibunrat Ladaphongpattana, IJM’s project manager for child sexual assault cases. "This judgment will send a very strong message to the community.”
Summer break ended in Thailand last month, and the girls are happily back in school. The survivors will continue to receive aftercare services from IJM, including trauma-focused therapy. Wibunrat said the girls seemed very shy and untrusting of adults when they first starting meeting a year ago, but now they are playful and confident. She credits much of this transformation to their supportive families.
They can now play without fearing the sound of a motorbike.