The offending foster father was found guilty in may by a jury at the High Court in Wellington. Photo / File
By Hazel Osborne Open Justice multimedia journalist, Pōneke
Warning: This story contains mention of rape and suicide, reader discretion is advised.
A man who raped and kidnapped his teenage foster daughter told her it was God's will they be together.
"He took years of my childhood away from me ... I won't ever be the same person because of his choices," his victim said in court.
"His job was to be my protector – not to be the person I needed protection from."
The man, whose name is suppressed by the court to protect his victim, said it was the will of God that he and his then 18-year-old foster daughter marry and have children. He threatened suicide if she didn't comply.
His actions have left his victim traumatised, empty and alone in what was described as offending that sent ripples through the wider community.
She and three others expressed the impact the offending had on her over the two years the pair were engaging in a sexual relationship, one that was bookended by rape and kidnapping.
He was today sentenced to seven and a half years behind bars for charges of rape, kidnapping and having a sexual connection with a dependent family member.
After a trial that lasted three weeks and one day, with thousands of documents worth of disclosure, the man was found guilty by a jury in the High Court at Wellington in May.
Significant suppressions conceal much of the case that came before the court in order to protect the victim, however one detail was clear – the young woman's life has been changed forever.
Justice Christine Grice said the implications of the offending were "catastrophic beyond this room" and the ripples of its impact have been felt "far away".
Justice Grice said the man was needy and would threaten to kill himself and his victim would go along with it because she wanted freedom and to "not offend God".
The violence of his offending, including when he kidnapped and raped the victim last year, had left an obvious scar on both her and her family.
He was the only father she had ever known; she was vulnerable and trusted him, Justice Grice said.
To justify the relationship, the defendant said God had wanted it. Justice Grice said this was a powerfully manipulative statement to make to a young person who was brought up in a religious household.
Feelings of tension and anticipation were palpable in the Wellington courtroom as the victim and her family sat silently waiting for the hearing to get under way this morning.
The young woman described how her foster dad would break her confidence down and said she would never be accepted in the world.
"I felt isolated and lonely and at some points did not just want to live anymore.
"I felt extremely hollow inside and learnt to shut off my emotions and not feel anything."
Control over her life was the norm, and her choices were taken from her including when she had sex for the first time – a sacred milestone for many people.
"He took that important choice away from me and made me feel dirty and used."
She said she thought there was never going to be a way she would escape him fully, and lied to him about the relationship for her own security. All she ever wanted was to be a normal teen.
A statement from her foster mother was read to the court and said she was unable to convey the anguish of the lived reality, and their lives have been torn apart completely.
She said the guilt she feels for what happened was "inexpressible".
"By not being able to protect her, I feel I have let her down immensely," she said.
"[There is] no easy way to erase what you have done. I wake up at night reliving the past ... I am devastated beyond words."
The court accepted the family were also victims.
Family members said the man dominated family life, and everything revolved around him, and the years of emotional manipulation he inflicted on his victim had skewed her view of relationships.
His lack of remorse or accountability for his actions continues to hurt the family.
They said they did not believe he was a man of faith and had lied about his dedication as a Christian man putting up a "smokescreen" and "facade of respectability".
"You don't just get over sexual assault, it's a life sentence and it's the victims who have to deal with the pain forever," another said.
The man's family appeared remotely, with a number tuning in via video link for support.
Crown prosecutor Wilbur Tupua said there was no consensual relationship between the two, and there was clear premeditation when both rapes and the kidnapping occurred.
Tupua said the teen was vulnerable, young and significantly smaller in stature than the defendant. She is still dealing with the trauma of the offending.
Defence lawyer Marty Robinson said his client had no memories of the offending, but broke down in tears when questioned by police and said if he had done that "he was a monster".
Robinson said significant mental health issues, extreme bullying when he was a child, social deficits and never understanding how to fit in had impacted his adult life.
In a pre-sentence report, it was said he found a need to fix himself vicariously through a victim complex and believed his foster daughter suffered from neurological disorders, one of which was never diagnosed.
His mother said she believed the man had already learned his lesson.
Standing up to make a statement from the dock, the man said he now realised how deeply harmful the whole situation had been and that he took responsibility.
He said he is doing everything he can to never encounter the justice system again.
Justice Grice said the remorse he showed seemed to only be an afterthought, only because of the outcome of his circumstances and not for the offending or victim impact.
Sexual harm - Where to get help
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If you have been sexually assaulted, remember it's not your fault.