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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Tim Piccione

'I loved you like a father': child rape victim confronts uncle in court

Queenie van de Zandt, who says she wants to help encourage other victims to come forward. Picture by Tim Piccione

A victim's tears were a stark contrast to her seemingly emotionless uncle and perpetrator, who 37 years ago raped the then-child in the dead of night.

"I loved you like a father," Queenie van de Zandt said from the ACT Supreme Court witness stand on Thursday during a sentencing hearing.

"I felt safe and loved and seen. And I trusted you completely."

The woman asked Chief Justice Lucy McCallum if she could address her impassioned victim impact statement directly to her uncle, Antonius van de Zandt, who stared back in silence from the dock.

In September, a jury took less than a day to find the 72-year-old man guilty of sexual intercourse without consent with a child and committing an act of indecency on a child.

Ms van de Zandt has consented to being named in media reporting.

She previously told The Canberra Times Grace Tame inspired her to report the abuse and she wanted to help other victims come forward.

Antonius van de Zandt, who was found guilty, arrives at court on Thursday. Picture by Hannah Neale

'Enough is enough'

"Bringing this matter to the police had nothing to do with revenge, it was not done out of anger, but from a quiet, thoughtful place," said the victim, who was 15 at the time of the offending.

"From a persistent voice inside saying, 'Enough is enough'.

"This strong but gentle voice is the voice that Ton silenced the day he raped me, a voice for so long I felt I couldn't trust."

The victim said she was "still broken" from the "profound, enduring and pervasive wound" inflicted upon her, but she wanted her voice to join others holding perpetrators of sexual assault to account.

Details of the offending, which took place in the man's Kaleen home in March 1986, were heard throughout the six-day trial.

The court heard the victim fell asleep in her aunt and uncle's bed before the teenager was awoken in the middle of night by van de Zandt digitally raping her.

A prosecutor told jurors the victim "froze" before the offender forced her hand onto his genitals, all while his wife was out of the room.

The man claimed to have been asleep throughout the incident and he had no memory of it.

Grace Tame, an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, helped inspire Ms van de Zandt to come forward. Picture by Karleen Minney

'A victim with no power'

On Thursday, the victim detailed how hiding the abuse for years from her father, van de Zandt's brother, had devastating effects.

"Keeping it a secret turned me into a victim with no power and this role has been insidiously at play throughout my life," she said.

"Allowing you to get away with this crime created a jail sentence for me."

Chief Justice McCallum thanked the woman "for letting me hear your voice".

The judge later addressed the divide of supporters in the court's public gallery.

"It is very clear there is a stark conflict in this family about whether Queenie van de Zandt told the truth," she said.

The judge said this was understood to be the most traumatic aspect of being a victim, on top of the trauma of a physical assault.

"The trauma of effectively being branded a liar," she said.

Antonius Van de Zandt arrives at court during his trial. Picture by Tim Piccione

No remorse

Chief Justice McCallum also said van de Zandt had shown a "complete absence of remorse".

"I would find it very difficult, in the context of this hearing and the two camps I see before me, to accept the man for whom you act has shown remorse. I don't see it," she said.

"You can't be remorseful for something you say didn't happen."

Prosecutor Lewis Etheredge described a letter the offender sent to the court as "self-serving".

"His letter is essentially three sentences out of two-and-a-half pages where he states he's sorry," Mr Etheredge said.

"In the same sentence he's saying sorry, he's still explaining away his actions and putting forward his defence. It's not a genuine expression of remorse."

The court heard van de Zandt had made "some negative verbalisations" about his niece to a pre-sentence report author.

Mr Etheredge said full-time custody was the only appropriate sentence.

Legal Aid lawyer Edward Chen said van de Zandt's offending was not premeditated and the crime was an "isolated incident".

Full-time custody question

Chief Justice McCallum addressed what she described as the "elephant in the room".

"I'm troubled about the prospect of this man, with his age and what might be a poor state of health, being sent to the Alexander Maconochie Centre for however long. It's a harsh place," she said.

The court heard the offender was "frequently hospitalised" but the defence did not offer an expert medical witness to assess the man's health or how it would affect his time in custody.

Mr Chen described his client as being "in extremely poor health".

Van de Zandt is set to learn his fate next month.

  • Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 6247 2525; Bravehearts 1800 272 831; Blue Knot Foundation 1300 657 380.
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