Former Pitcairn islanders tell of rape as a way of life

Former residents of Pitcairn, an apparently idyllic semi-tropical island in the South Pacific, yesterday painted a picture of a community in which young girls were used as sexual playthings and rape and violence were a way of life.

One man, Dave Brown, allegedly assaulted a series of girls aged as young as five over a period of 21 years. One little girl was indecently assaulted in the Seventh Day Adventist church as her friend looked on, the Pitcairn Supreme Court heard. Another incident allegedly took place while children were playing hide and seek during a birthday party outing on the island.

The Pitcairn deputy prosecutor, Christine Gordon, told Justice Jane Lovell-Smith that Mr Brown's offending was characterised by the attitude that "young girls were available for him as and when he chose".

Mr Brown, 49, went on trial yesterday charged with 13 indecent assaults and two acts of gross indecency with a child between 1970 and 1991. He is one of seven Pitcairners before the court facing a total of 55 child sex offences. Another six men now living in Australia and New Zealand will go on trial next year, charged with 41 similar offences.

Steve Christian, Pitcairn's mayor, is in the first group, and one of his alleged victims told the court that he tried to drag her out of her tent and have sex with her during a trip to Oeno, an uninhabited island in the Pitcairn group. The woman, who grew up in the British dependent territory settled by the Bounty mutineers, also claimed that Mr Christian came to her house and tried to get into bed with her while his wife, Olive, was giving birth to their first son, Trent.

Asked by Mr Christian's defence lawyer, Paul Dacre, why she did not tell anyone in authority, the woman - now 51 and living overseas - said it would have been pointless. "That's the way it is on Pitcairn," she said. "You get abused, you get raped. It's a normal way of life on Pitcairn."

The woman, who has described witnessing her mother being beaten unconscious by her father nightly as a child, said: "All that you associate sex with on Pitcairn is violence." When a man grabbed a girl and demanded sex, she said, "you just go along and let them do what they want to do to you, because you don't want to get hurt".

She said: "You don't want to wake up flat on the ground, where someone has kicked the shit out of you. They just do what they want with you and then leave you in the gutter, bugger off and ignore you as though nothing has happened."

The woman, whose evidence had to be halted after she collapsed in tears, also indicated that she was abused by an unidentified person at a very young age. Referring to her first interview with investigating police, she said: "It all just came tumbling out, from the first time when it happened when I was three."

Ms Gordon told the court that Mr Brown "resumed his old habits" after he returned to the island, married and with a baby girl, following an 11-year absence in New Zealand. One incident involving a 15-year-old girl allegedly took place during a spear-fishing trip. He also allegedly assaulted a girl of 14 as she sat in front of him on one of the quad bikes that are the sole form of transport on Pitcairn. Mr Brown has admitted having sex 10 of 15 times with another local girl, who was 12 or 13 at the time. The case continues.

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