A SUPREME Court decision to reduce the jail term of two men found guilty of raping a 50-year-old woman unleashed a wave of anger on Friday from support groups and members of the public who are staging a protest in response.
The case concerns two men from Romania, who in 2013 at age 27, raped a 50-year-old woman from the Philippines and were each sentenced a year later to 12 years in prison.
A friend was going to pick her up from a supermarket at about 4:30pm on June 6 and take her to Pera Chorio but was then unable to, the woman began to trudge to Larnaca where the two men, driving from Nicosia to Larnaca offered to give her a ride to Pyrga where she said she was going.
Trusting them, she got in the car but as they continued to drive, noticed they were veering off the main road and going towards a field area.
The court heard gruesome details on how they both repeatedly raped her and one stopped her from getting out of the car when she tried to escape. Both men pleaded not guilty.
The appeals cited, amongst other reasons that the initial court decision did not take into consideration that the victim bore no signs of physical abuse.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court reduced their sentence to 10-years noting “excessive violence was not used to force the victim, but just threats and a slap.”
Several members of the public, who were quick to react online said essentially, what the decision means is that the woman was not beaten up enough.
Support worker Nasia Savva for the Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family said this sends all the wrong messages to society.
“It’s not a matter of two years. We’re essentially saying there’s mitigation for a rape. What message does this send out?”
Although in the court of justice a person is always innocent until proven guilty, Savva questioned whether such decisions will actually help victims report such cases, in a culture where the topic is already a taboo.
“Victims already feel they won’t be taken seriously and are hesitant to talk. I see this from the phone calls we get to our helpline.”
“There is a stereotype that the victim has to be in really bad shape for the case to be taken seriously… many of the state services don’t actually help because they always doubt the woman.”
The Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies director Susana Pavlou told the Cyprus Mail that looking at the legal arguments used left them shocked.
Aggravating circumstances, such as use of excessive force, severe body harm, use of a weapon, if the victim is too young or too old count towards a harsher sentence.
“In this case, they ruled in the absence of some aggravating circumstances (absence of severe body harm) and this was used instead as a mitigating factor.”
This shouldn’t even be up for discussion, Pavlou said. “Rape is rape.”
What the decision inadvertently means, she added is “by saying these is an absence of violence she didn’t fight back enough. Should she have instigated his rage? Was her lack of consent not enough?”
Both Savva and Pavlou said it seemed as though the court did not take into consideration the victim’s psychological state and how detrimental the damage can be to a person when they are raped.
They also added it is difficult to say whether the developments would have been different had she been a Cypriot as there are already low reports of rape cases – and in turn convictions – across the country.
On a positive note however, Pavlou added that “without exception, everyone was shocked.” Across social media, calls MIGS received and comments she heard, everyone was against the decision.
“I was expecting to hear even at least one reaction of the type that she was a domestic worker,” or a foreigner but nothing. “It was all against the decision.”
On Monday, the Cyprus Women’s Lobby will stage a protest against the decision outside the Supreme Court opposite the municipal gardens at 12pm.
The helpline for any victims of abuse and / or violence is 1440