‘Insensitive Facebook comments hurt victim’

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Dy (right) meeting with one of the DSWD clients at the Philippine Consulate General

THE “insensitive” comments she got from Facebook had further hurt her.

The Filipina victim who gave evidence in court about the indecent assault and rape committed on her by her former employer read Facebook comments about her and these added to her anguish, Social Welfare Attache Elizabeth Lim Dy.

“Dapat nga proud pa tayo sa kanya kasi ipinaglaban niya ang karapatan niya at ng ibang workers dito. Ipinaglaban din niya ang mga kababaihan, the right of other women. Kaya nga sabi ko sa kanya maging strong siya,” Dy told Hong Kong News.

The victim had seen and read the comments posted on Facebook, Dy said, and some of those comments made her cry.

“Alam natin na may freedom of expression tayo dito sa Hong Kong at siyempre hindi natin makokontrol ang mga tao pero sana ang ating mga kababayan naiisip nila na hinuhusgahan nila ang biktima na nakikipaglaban at para din sa kanila iyan,” Dy added. The victim had flown back to the Philippines, she said.

A High Court judge on May 17 sentenced a construction worker from Togo to nine years in prison after he was found guilty of raping his Filipino domestic helper in his home in Tuen Mun in 2015.

Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping sentenced 37-year-old Kokou Afla Apelete to nine years in prison for the offense of rape, and four years for indecent assault, but said the prison terms would be served concurrently.

She also ordered Apelete to pay $48,120 to his victim for her loss of income. In giving her sentence, Justice Toh said Apelete, who married a Hong Kong woman in 2012, showed no remorse as after the victim he told her not to worry and that he would be sending money to her children and family in the Philippines.

Justice Toh said there was “utterly no remorse whatsoever” on the part of the defendant when he told the victim after raping her to refrain from showing her crying face to his wife, who was at work when he raped the helper.

Justice Toh also noted domestic helpers are in vulnerable position as they leave their home country and working far away from their family.

She said foreign domestic helpers not only depend on their employers for salary but also for their safety and the defendant’s actions were a “breach of trust”.

She also cited as aggravating features the actions of the defendant in delaying the trial for three days when he checked himself into a private hospital, seeking a Togo Ewe interpreter, and refusing to give instructions to his defense lawyers.

“It added to the victim’s distress. I can imagine the victim being caused much distress, waiting to give evidence,” said Justice Toh, who cited the victim’s “integrity” after the latter testified in court that  despite several incidents when Apelete would ask if she wanted a boyfriend in Hong Kong and offering her money to be his girlfriend, she would rebuff him and say that she was contented with her salary as a domestic helper.

In an impact report, the victim, who was referred to in court as “Madam X”, said after the incident she was “depressed and got scared easily” if a person touched her on the back or if she  encountered male strangers.

The 31-year-old Filipina, a mother of two and her family’s breadwinner, also said she could not sleep well after the incident and had been given an HIV injection about six months after the rape as she was worried the defendant gave her a sexually-transmitted disease because she did not see him wearing a condom when he raped her.

“Because of this traumatic event, (Madam X) was afraid to work in Hong Kong again…and because she was not able to bring herself to work in Hong Kong again, her family had a difficult time in the Philippines,” Justice Toh said.

To fly to Hong Kong and give evidence in court, the victim had to resign from her work as a saleslady in the Philippines and was unsure if she could find another job.

Throughout the sentencing, the defendant was seen shaking his head, and later on was heard sobbing in court.

On May 16, a majority of a seven-member jury found Apelete guilty of indecently assaulting and raping a Filipino domestic helper on Aug. 25, 2015.

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