[EDITORIALS]Sensitivity for abuse victimsThe results of a recent series of trials related to minors who claimed to have been sexually abused are confusing. This is because the rulings of lower and higher courts have been entirely different.
In a recent case where a woman sought to have her husband punished for sexually abusing her daughter, the man was sentenced to seven years in prison at his trial, but was found innocent on appeal. The court said it could not find sufficient evidence to sustain the guilty verdict.
In another case, a 16-year-old girl in Gwangyang city was beaten and raped by a man she met through an Internet chat site. At his trial, the man received a sentence of two years and six months in prison, but the verdict was overturned on appeal. Again, the court said it did not have enough evidence.
“Although we can say that the accused attempted to rape the victim against her will by using a certain amount of physical force, it is difficult to prove that the degree of force was too great for the victim to resist,” the court said in a statement.
The appeals court is there to correct wrong decisions that may be made in the lower court. Therefore it has every right to overturn decisions made in the lower court. Judges may also have differing levels of understanding on sexual abuse cases. Despite these factors, however, we are confused about the recent rulings because the judges’ interpretations of the same evidence are too different. It is extremely distressing to have a vacillating court system.
Moreover, society should actively protect minors. Unlike many other crimes, sexual abuse leaves a scar that lasts a lifetime.
Even if we understand that the court must base its rulings on solid evidence, there must be some measure to protect the weak in society. Consideration for the weak must be reflected in a trial.
Lately, centers for judicial trainees are working to increase the level of understanding of sexual abuse for future judicial officers by incorporating audio-visual materials and mock trials.
Since July 1999, education on sexual abuse prevention has became compulsory for employees at central and local government offices.
In the judiciary, the Ministry of Court Administration is the only office that gave such education to employees. The judiciary should try to utilize the content of these preventive education courses in actual trials.