Court experience shows that individuals may act differently to the trauma of sexual assault, Justice Marlene Carter said last week when she handed down a guilty verdict after a trial for rape.
Victims of rape do not always have injuries to show for it and there is no “classic reaction” to a demand for unwanted sexual activity, the judge said.
She set sentencing for April 12 after finding John Michael Soriano guilty of rape after an incident in September 2018. Mr. Soriano was on a work permit at the time.
The judge allowed him to remain on bail pending a pre-sentence report, with conditions that include residing with his father and reporting to police daily. A stop notice at all air and seaports was left in place.
The evidence of the complainant was that she had gone to visit a female friend at the friend’s workplace. After a while, she asked to go to the friend’s apartment because she had a headache.
She went to the apartment and Mr. Soriano was there; he appeared to be cooking. She went into the friend’s bedroom and lay down on the bed, playing with her phone.
The defendant came into the room and sat on the floor. Then he sat on the bed close to her. She moved away. He then began to stroke her body and lean over her. She said she told him to stop, saying “No” and “Get off.” He did not stop and had his arms over hers.
She kept telling him to stop and do not do it, but he kept trying to touch her everywhere. She was starting to get tired.
“I didn’t scream. I couldn’t scream because a lot was going through my mind,” she told the court.
The defendant was able to get her clothes off and he put his genitals into her private parts, as she described the act. Afterward, she sat on the bed crying.
Maybe five minutes later, her friend came home and asked what happened. The complainant told her everything – that she had been raped by Mr. Soriano. She left the apartment with her friend and then called her pastor’s wife, who came and spoke with her.
Justice Carter said defense counsel Crister Brady asked many probing questions, seeking to discredit the complainant. She was consistent and not shaken in cross-examination. She maintained she had tried to get the defendant to move off of her and she was continually telling him “no” and “stop.”
The judge agreed there was a lack of evidence as to screaming or her biting or scratching the defendant in an effort to prevent him from what he was doing, but this did not cause her to doubt the complainant’s account.
There was also the evidence of the complainant’s friend and the pastor’s wife, which, as evidence of recent complaint, supported the consistency of her account.
Mr. Soriano, when interviewed after the incident, claimed he was drunk and could not remember the incident at all.
During his trial, he said he remembered the correct version of what happened and he had consensual sex. He explained that he was not drunk at the time of the incident, but found himself confused at the interview and he could not explain himself. (Mr. Soriano was assisted by an interpreter for his trial.) Justice Carter said she had the benefit of hearing the recorded interview. Mr. Soriano had spoken to an attorney beforehand and one of the officers was able to speak to him in is native language.
There did not appear to be any point at which he did not understand what was being said to him and he never complained, but answered freely.
“I am not persuaded that he was confused,” the judge said.
She noted that many details he gave were never put to the complainant, which caused her to doubt his version of events. But, she reminded herself, she could not convict him simply because she did not believe him – she had to go back to the prosecution’s case.
The complainant was clear in her words and by her actions that she did not consent, the judge said. “I believe her …. I am satisfied so that I am sure that she did not consent. I am satisfied so that I am sure that the defendant knew she was not consenting or that he was reckless as to whether she was consenting or not. I am satisfied he is guilty.”