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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Hannah Neale

Judge notes rapist's 'cynical exercise in self ingratiation'

A woman who was raped by her uncle when she was a child has urged other sexual assault survivors to speak up and tell their stories to "create actual concrete change for our daughters and sons".

Her rapist, Antonius van de Zandt, is set to spend the next six months behind bars after the ACT Supreme Court found the man's claims of remorse were a "cynical exercise in self ingratiation".

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum sentenced van de Zandt to three years imprisonment, with the custodial part of his sentence to be suspended after six months upon entering into a good behavior order.

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.

Van de Zandt, who claimed during a trial that he was asleep at the time of the crimes, will be eligible for release from jail in May 2024.

The victim, his niece, Queenie van de Zandt, has consented to being named in media reporting.

Queenie van de Zandt speaks to media outside the court on Friday. Picture by Hannah Neale

Speaking with media outside court on Friday, Ms van de Zandt thanked advocates for survivors of sexual abuse Grace Tame and Saxon Mullins, "whose words made me come forward".

"In a case of incestual sexual assault, like mine where an uncle raped his niece, families feel a lot of shame, and often the victim is silenced so as not bring shame upon the family," she said.

"But the worst thing we can do is silence a victim because sexual violence thrives in silence, and by silencing victims you pass trauma onto the next generation.

"The time of silence is over. In speaking out and reporting my sexual assault, I have gone from being a victim to a survivor. And the more of us that report sexual violence, the stronger we become.

"I encourage all victims to speak up and redirect the shame to where it belongs - with the perpetrator. Tell your story, together we can create actual concrete change for our daughters and sons."

Antonius van de Zandt arrives at the ACT Supreme Court on a previous ocassion. Picture by Tim Piccione

Ms van de Zandt was 15 when her 34-year-old uncle digitally raped and indecently assaulted her in 1986.

On the night in question, after a party, the victim fell asleep in a water bed with her aunt and uncle who she "admired and adored".

When her aunt left the room in the middle of the night to vomit in the bathroom, Ms Van de Zandt woke up to find her uncle pulling her legs apart before he raped and assaulted her.

The victim said "you're my uncle, you're my uncle" before van de Zandt replied "sorry" and went back to sleep.

In court, she described feeling "absolutely terrified", saying "I didn't know what was happening. I didn't know what to do."

After the rape, Ms van de Zandt told her sister who confronted her uncle.

During this exchange, van de Zandt explained "in some detail about his strong sexual desire" and said it was "animalistic".

In her sentence hand-down, Chief Justice McCallum said van de Zandt still denied any culpable wrong doing, maintaining he had been asleep during the crimes and had no memory of the offences.

"Before being charged he had accepted full responsibility for those acts," the judge stated.

"Criminal proceedings had a divisive impact on [the victim's] family relationship.

"The schism in the family was palpable at the hearing and must be a source of great sadness."

Chief Justice McCallum said a letter van de Zandt had written to the court ahead of his sentencing was "a cynical exercise in self ingratiation".

In the letter, the rapist stated he was "sorry and have always been sorry ... even though not being able to remember because I was asleep".

"He should not be given the benefit of his professed remorse," the judge said.

The court did, however, take van de Zandt's "constellation of health issues" into account and found time in jail would "impose significant hardship".

  • 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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