Child abuser convicted despite widespread victim blaming

When a child found the courage to report long-term traumatic sexual abuse within her family, relatives attacked her in court. But did Maltese media need to amplify their accusations?

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Child abuser convicted despite widespread victim blaming - NewsMavens
Newspapers. PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Is it really a court reporter's job to retell everything that is being said in court about an underage victim of alleged rape? Although the minor remained unnamed, the details offered by her bitter relatives in court wound up in the newspapers anyway -- a neighbor found the victim to be "ambitious", and relatives said she was jealous of the attention given to her sister and lied about her grades.

There was no mention in any of the papers that any child psychologist or social worker was consulted.

No professional was asked to put the character assassination led by bitter relatives into context: that children may seek affection, but that it doesn't justify mature relatives perceiving it as an invitation to rape; that difficult children, potentially from broken homes, may be abused and fear speaking up; and that a child who has been abused at a young age may be angry and difficult. 

As we have previously shown, Maltese newspapers often trivialize and normalize gender-based violence.

Even though the victim was young and clearly damaged by the encounters, some papers still chose to focus their reporting on the negative details that her family offered the court.

This time the court believed the victim, despite the testimony of her family. But perhaps they should consult a child psychologist next time?

Details from the story:

  • A 25-year-old has been convicted of raping his younger cousin. She was 10 when he started abusing her in their grandmother's house, the court found. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
  • The judgment ended a week-long trial which spurred public debate on the issue of victim-blaming.
  • The victim is now 16. She admitted to making advances at the cousin at some point, which he took as a green light to abuse her for years.
  • The convict's lawyers said the victim made it up because she was "jealous" and "obsessed" with her cousin. The victim said she had not reported the crime fearing it would break up the family.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at