Sex attack: Woman tearful as jury finds man guilty

A man has been found guilty of sexually violating an intoxicated woman as she slept following a work event.

WARNING: Some readers may find the details of this story distressing.

The victim of a “forceful” sexual attack broke into tears as her abuser was found guilty on a charge of sexual violation.

The woman had earlier given evidence, during a trial at the Tauranga District Court, of a violent sexual assault that happened after a work party that ended at a colleague’s home.

She had been intoxicated and asleep in a spare bedroom when a man she’d met just a handful of times had come into her bedroom, grabbed her by the inner thighs, pulled her back, pinned her down, and forcefully penetrated her.

She said in her evidential video to police that as she realised what was happening she kept thinking “say something, say something” before she used her most “stern” voice to say: “Get the f*** off me”.

She could hear him panting and breathing heavily as he violated her, but he’d stopped and “scurried off” after she’d told him to leave.

The man, who has interim name suppression, denied the attack.

He said under cross-examination that he’d “briefly” gone into the woman’s room by mistake, as he’d stayed in that particular room on an earlier occasion.

He had taken a “few steps” inside before he realised someone was in the bed and left.

Crown Solicitor Anna Pollett pointed to a photograph, taken after the incident, that showed a hat he’d been wearing earlier that day in the bed where the then-alleged violation took place.

The man didn’t know how the hat had ended up there.

During re-examination, the defendant’s lawyer, Craig Tuck, asked him when he’d last seen his hat.

The man said it had fallen off his head earlier in the evening and while he remembered catching it as it fell, he doesn’t have clear memories of it again that night.

The defence case was that the incident had been “absolute fantasy” and the woman had made it up.

During cross-examination by Tuck, the woman said she “wishe[ed]” she had made it up.

The jury, after a day’s deliberation, found him guilty on the single charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual violation.

The trial

The jury’s main consideration was to decide, based on the evidence, if the incident had happened or had not.

With allegations of sexual assaults, a jury must also consider the issue of consent, but the defence case was not that it happened and she’d consented - rather that it simply didn’t happen at all.

The Crown also pointed to the woman’s intoxication and the fact she’d been asleep as being clear indicators the woman couldn’t have consented.

The court heard how, in the lead-up to the incident, there had been a work event at the Tauranga Races.

A mix of colleagues, friends and neighbours headed to a colleague’s house following the races to enjoy drinks and food on a typical summer’s evening around an outdoor fire.

The victim, who was connected to the workplace and was friends with the homeowner, said she’d been having a good time, catching up with long-standing friends and people she’d just met.

Her husband had left the gathering early, but she had stayed on.

The gathering had continued, with more drinks and festivities, with a few people staying at the house after midnight.

The woman told the court she was very drunk by this time, and couldn’t remember large parts of the evening.

She said she went to bed in one of the spare rooms but woke in the early hours to a man, whom she’d only met on a handful of occasions, “forcefully” raping her.

When she awoke the next morning she went into the bathroom, feeling sore, looked in the mirror and thought “what the f***, has this really happened?”

After heading into the kitchen to try and find somewhere to charge her phone, she told the homeowner what had happened after he inquired whether she was okay.

In his evidence, the homeowner told the court she had been “sobbing uncontrollably” when describing the assault.

The defence case was that her evidence couldn’t be relied upon because of the “almost unbelievable” amounts of alcohol she had consumed, which had impacted her memory.

The defence pointed to a lack of DNA present after a physical exam, and also to the man’s ability to remain steadfast in his account, despite the “peppering” of questions from the Crown.

The jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict after around eight hours of deliberation.

The man was remanded in custody until sentencing.

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