Defendant and victim knew each other
Saying that rape by an acquaintance could be just as traumatic as rape by a stranger, Justice Malcolm Swift imposed a sentence of 10 years for a man found guilty at a jury trial earlier this month.
Manolo Vallo and the victim worked at the same business. The evidence was that he attacked her when they were alone on the premises after business hours.
In passing sentence on Wednesday, Justice Swift set out the background to the offense, noting that the victim was 16 years younger than Vallo; they had come from the same country and their families knew each other.
Vallo took on the role of mentor, purporting to guide her as she obtained work and gained experience on the job. The judge said it was clear to him that Vallo had another objective in mind as he began to display affection toward her and sought out her company socially. He persisted in trying to ingratiate himself with her. She gave him no encouragement and began to feel uncomfortable around him.
The rape occurred at the end of a workday when they were alone together. “Using your superior strength you pinned her down on the floor and forced her into sexual intercourse despite her valiant attempts to stop you,” the judge said. Afterward, Vallo stopped her from reporting the matter by insisting on taking her home.
Vallo then began a campaign of texting and phoning to prevent her from making any report by trying to embarrass her and pressure her, instilling feelings of shame and distress.
The effect of the attack on her was clear from her first text back to him: “You just destroyed my life. It’s better you kill me than if you treated me like this.”
Justice Swift said the young woman believed that Vallo had deflowered her and ruined her chances to lead a normal life with normal relationships.
Vallo’s defense at trial involved the allegation that the young woman was his girlfriend and they had had sex before, but she had fabricated the attack because she was jealous of another girlfriend of his.
That defense added to the abuse she suffered at his hands, the judge pointed out. Because of his not guilty plea, the young woman had to give evidence and relive the ordeal, the humiliation of being cross-examined and being accused of being a liar who had made up the whole allegation out of spite.
Justice Swift read from a U.K. report titled “Protecting the Public” as it dealt with so-called date-rape or acquaintance rape. “Our view is that rape is rape and cannot be divided into more or less serious offenses. It can be just as traumatic to be raped by someone you know and trust who has chosen you as his victim, as by a stranger who sexually assaults the first man or woman who passes by.
“It is up to the courts to take all the particular circumstances of a case into account before determining the appropriate penalty,” the judge quoted. He then commented, “That statement represents with accuracy and poignancy the grave effect of this rape on this victim in this case.”
Defense attorney Fiona Robertson asked for leniency. She said people in the community who knew Vallo were struggling to reconcile this conviction with the hard-working, reputable man they knew.
She pointed out that Vallo would never be able to return to Cayman after he serves his sentence, so there would be considerable financial impact on him. The work he did here for $1,000 per month would earn him $250 per month in his home country, she told the court.
As the youngest child of his widowed mother, and the only one not married, Vallo was responsible for providing for her. She was now in her 70s and in poor health. Vallo was concerned about who would care for her while he was in prison and whether she would live long enough to ever see him again.
Justice Swift agreed with the attorney that there were no aggravating factors to the offending, “other than those inherent in the rape itself, which invariably causes trauma to the victim and instills feelings of worthlessness, self-blame, despair and any prospects of happiness in the future.”
Crown counsel Candia James had brought to his attention Cayman’s 2002 sentencing guidelines and a Court of Appeal judgment that set out aggravating and mitigating factors. Justice Swift referred to both as he imposed the 10-year term.