Jump to content

What The Hell?!?!?! (seriously messed up sh!t)


Recommended Posts

Pitcairn: An island a world apart. A people torn apart

By Kathy Marks in Adamstown

02 October 2004

It is a cool Thursday evening, and the Pitcairn Island general store is a hub of social activity. Steve Christian, on trial for child rape and indecent assault, is browsing the dusty shelves, with their tins of corned beef and condensed milk. His son, Randy, who will soon follow him into the dock, is chatting animatedly with other shoppers in Pitkernese, the local dialect.

Christian's daughter, Tania, is manning one till, making entries in the islanders' battered account books. Carol Warren, whose husband, Jay, is charged with indecent assault, is looking after the other. Her two daughters, Charlene and Daralyn, who recently withdrew allegations against local men, have dropped in to have a gossip with the neighbours. Such are the two parallel universes of Pitcairn, which co-exist, apparently without friction. On the surface, what passes for normal life in this most curious of places continues uninterrupted. Meanwhile, in the village square, a procession of men passes through the ramshackle wooden courtroom, charged with a litany of sex offences.

Seven men face the Pitcairn Supreme Court, and another six - now living in Australia and New Zealand - will go to trial next year in Auckland. But The Independent has learnt that the 18-month investigation by Kent Police uncovered allegations against 31 men going back to the 1960s. That is a remarkable figure given Pitcairn's current population of 47, including 15 adult males. Some of the 31 are dead. Thirteen have been charged. Statements against the remainder, many of whom live off the island, have been retracted - mainly as a result of pressure by the alleged victims' families, claim sources close to the case. The charges laid, they say, represent only "a snapshot" of the bigger picture.

As you follow the "main road" - a rutted dirt track - down to Bounty Bay, where Fletcher Christian and the other mutineers burnt their ship to escape detection, it is hard to believe that such a tranquil and picturesque spot could be the scene of so much alleged violence against children. Beautiful vistas over the South Pacific open up as you descend the Hill of Difficulty, which connects a small landing stage with Adamstown, the tiny settlement. Islanders wave cheerily as they speed past on their motorised quad bikes, the only form of transport. At the wharf, two women gut freshly caught fish, which they will grill later on for a family dinner.

Which of Pitcairn's two faces is the genuine one? Is it the friendly, hospitable face that inhabitants of the British territory switch on for outsiders, or is it the dark and sinister face gradually taking shape as the prosecution outlines its case? Are the mutineers' descendants the simple, down-to-earth folk who welcome visitors with broad smiles and would drop everything to help a neighbour in need, pulling together to guarantee the survival of their remote, rugged island community? Or is Pitcairn a dsyfunctional society where child abuse is rampant and even untainted members have turned a blind eye for generations? A modern-day Lord of the Flies, a place that has turned inwards and devoured itself after decades of being left to its own devices?

The answers will not be clear until the three judges shipped in from New Zealand deliver their verdicts in six weeks' time. Even then, much may remain murky. Pitcairn has guarded itself from prying eyes for two centuries, wrapping itself in the mystique of the Bounty legend and relying on its remote location - a 36-hour sail from the nearest airfield in French Polynesia - to perpetuate that myth. Now facing its gravest crisis since the mutineers fled here in 1790 with their Polynesian wives, the island is in collective denial.

Only four locals sat on the wooden bench at the back of the public hall to hear their mayor, Steve Christian - the man whose influence is so pervasive that nothing happens on Pitcairn without his say-so - accused of raping an 11-year-old while his two friends pinned her arms and legs to the ground.

Just one islander attended court to listen to the catalogue of charges against Pitcairn's tractor driver, Dave Brown, 49. Brown allegedly forced a five-year-old girl to give him oral sex during a communal outing, and assaulted another girl, possibly as young as seven, in the Seventh Day Adventist church while her little friend watched.

Whatever may or may not have happened in this sleepy place half-way between South America and New Zealand, Pitcairners would prefer not to know. It is easier to tell themselves the case against their men is absurd, that the incidents all involved consensual sex in a community where girls traditionally mature early. All seven men have pleaded not guilty.

The recently arrived visitor, seeking to divide fact from fiction, soon begins to feel like Alice in Wonderland. One family may detest another, but long-running feuds never manifest themselves in open warfare. Instead, they fester and infect the atmosphere in a goldfish-bowl community where nothing is private. Locals greet each other with friendly words and then spout poison behind each other's backs. "They're the most two-faced people in the world," says one outsider who has spent many months living among them. "They're incredibly shrewd and manipulative."

When the investigation began five years ago, the women stood by their menfolk, accusing their daughters of promiscuity. The scandal was blamed on the girls for speaking out rather than on the men who allegedly abused them. This week, as the trials were about to commence, the women called a surreal public meeting, where they boasted to strangers that they started having sex at 12. A middle-aged woman who was raped as a child swore blind that nothing of that sort ever happened on Pitcairn.

To begin unpeeling the layers of mystery that shroud the island, it is necessary to understand the power dynamics of a community that lives off its colourful past yet is a prisoner of its own history.

The Bounty legend guarantees a thriving trade in the wooden curios that islanders carve to sell by mail-order or to passengers whom they ferry ashore from the cruise ships that intermittently pass by. The other goods they produce - stamps, honey, dried fruits - are sure to find a market, too, thanks to the aura of the Pitcairn name. But to the locals, Fletcher Christian, the Bounty's first mate, is not just the swashbuckling hero familiar from so many Hollywood films. The mutineers' leader is still revered and his descendants hold sway in a society regulated by a caste system with one ruling family: the Christians.

Other families, who all bear the surnames Warren, Brown and Young, are subservient. A form of apartheid is also at play; the more Polynesian you look, the better. At the bottom of the heap are outsiders, "non-Pitcairners", who are excluded from the power base. Two male residents - an Englishman and a Raratongan from the Cook Islands - will never be given a tractor licence, despite their long experience.

Steve Christian heads the pre-eminent clan and, when he is absent, Pitcairn grinds to a halt. Sources have claimed that, in the past, he reserved for himself the privilege of "breaking in" local girls when they reached 11 or 12. As he accumulated a "harem" of girls around him, men from lower-ranked families allegedly became jealous and began seeking out girls who were younger and younger, taking them by force. Repeated rapes might eventually lead to a consensual relationship. Girls got pregnant and had several children by different fathers. Adultery, meanwhile, was said to be rife among the adults who make up Pitcairn society.

The sources dismiss the notion of a culture of under-age consensual sex, as well as the argument that men knew no better because the island was so isolated. In reality, they say, many Pitcairners have travelled widely. "It wasn't that they didn't know the boundaries," says one source. "They simply chose to ignore them."

Christian and his male relations are the aristocracy on an island that values the physical talents of its able-bodied men above all else. While the Christians are said to have controlled access to the supply ships and to building permissions, the community relies on all its men for survival. The men crew the longboats that bring goods ashore from the ships that call a few times a year from New Zealand. They repair machinery, and maintain the roads that cover everything in red dust and turn to thick mud after a tropical downpour.

In a society dominated by men since the days of Fletcher Christian, women know their place. They may be outspoken, assertive even, but they cannot do the men's work. So the men make the rules and the women defer. It sounds anachronistic, but there is much about Pitcairn that reminds one of a bygone era. The only shop opens for an hour three times a week; so do the tiny post office and library. There is neither television nor mobile-phone reception, and only one party telephone line, which is rarely used because inquisitive neighours can listen in on your conversation. The electricity is on for only 10 hours a day, and if you want hot water, you must build a fire.

Flush toilets are a rarity. The mail takes months to arrive. Islanders communicate with each other by radio. Before the internet arrived 18 months ago, locals lived in blissful ignorance of world events. There might be wars, famines, assassinations - but on Pitcairn, it can take months to find out.

As far as criminal justice went, Pitcairn policed itself. It had a magistrate and, according to historical records, the court cases nearly always involved the crime of unlawful carnal knowledge. When a girl of 12 or 13 fell pregnant, a man would go on trial, and sometimes receive the maximum prison sentence of 100 days. Now three generations of Pitcairn men are facing the full force of British justice for allegedly abusing the most vulnerable members of their society.

But even those islanders who deplore these alleged acts do not want to see the perpetrators go to jail. And some of the alleged victims, who all grew up on the island and are now adults, wish them to be spared that humiliation. They want the men, if found guilty, to acknowlege their sins and rebuild the community on healthier foundations. They want never to return to Pitcairn themselves, but they are still intensely protective of the island.

The court has sat for just three days so far, but already the image of Pitcairn as a South Pacific idyll has been brutally shattered. Alleged victims have painted a picture of widespread abuse in a world in which young girls were treated as no better than playthings.

A woman of 51, who was allegedly raped and abused by several defendants as a young girl, testified that Pitcairn men lived according to laws of their own making. "It just seemed to be the normal way of life back on Pitcairn, how the girls are treated, as though they are a sex thing," she said.

"Men could do what they want with them. They seem to be a rule unto themselves. That's the way it is on Pitcairn. You get abused, you get raped. They just do what they want with you and then leave you in the gutter. It's a normal way of life on Pitcairn."

The woman's own father, a pillar of the community, was a violent man who beat his wife senseless almost nightly. After one alleged rape at the hands of Steve Christian, her father thrashed her with a razor strop because the incident had made her late for church.

For her, growing up on Pitcairn was not the carefree existence that outsiders might have fondly imagined. The woman, now married and living overseas, said: "Everyone thinks Pitcairn is a paradise. But it's sheer hell."


and in today's news...

Island official admits sex charges

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 Posted: 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)

PITCAIRN ISLAND (AP) -- The postmaster of tiny Pitcairn Island has pleaded guilty to the indecent assault of a 12-year-old girl, the first outcome in a series of trials at a makeshift court set up on this remote Pacific outpost to handle charges of sex abuse dating back decades.

The defendant, Dennis Christian, is one of seven men on trial in the isolated British territory, which is home to descendants of the 18th century Bounty mutineers in a community whose entire year-round population numbers only 47.

Christian, 49, pleaded guilty to three of four charges against him and was released on bail until sentencing at an unspecified date, the court ruled on Monday -- Tuesday in New Zealand, from where some of the alleged victims testified by video link.

The court dismissed a fourth charge against Dennis Christian after prosecutors offered no evidence.

"We are pleased," prosecutor Christine Gordon told Television New Zealand. "It saves the two complainants from going through the trauma of having to give evidence in court."

Pitcairn, roughly halfway between New Zealand and Peru, has been reeling from unprecedented attention since the trials opened last week with more than half the island's adult males on trial, including the island's mayor Steve Christian.

Most of Pitcairn's female residents have come out in defense of their men, insisting that underage sex was part of the island's culture and that none of them had been forced into it.

But prosecutors painted a picture of the island's men treating women and girls like a harem.

"Hopefully it (Dennis Christian's guilty plea) is a sign of some acceptance by some on this island of events that have been taking place," said Rob Vinson, a British investigator, to Television New Zealand.

Dennis Christian, a relative of the mayor, admitted in court to indecently assaulting a 12-year-old girl in the early 1980s. The court suppressed details about the other two charges to which he pleaded guilty.

Police and witness statements on Sunday accused Steve Christian, a direct descendant of mutineer Fletcher Christian, of sexually initiating all the girls on the island.

Steve Christian, 53, pleaded innocent to six charges of rape and four of indecent assault on four women in 1964-75.

A woman testified from the New Zealand city of Auckland that Christian raped her twice, once while on a motorbike ride and again in one of the island's boats.

Defense attorneys suggested to the woman that she had consented to sex with Christian, which she denied.

The trials of three Pitcairn men are underway in two makeshift courtrooms in the island's community hall. Seven men face a total of 55 sex abuse charges going back as long as 40 years. The other four trials have not yet begun.

The trials, held under British law before New Zealand judges, are expected to take six weeks.

Some islanders claim that if the accused are convicted and imprisoned, they will no longer have enough men to crew longboats -- the only way to bring vital supplies to the island from passing ships.

There is no airstrip or port on the rocky, volcanic Pitcairn Islands, which have a total land area of 47 square kilometers (18 square miles). Only one is inhabited.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are a lot of angles to this story. I mean it's commonly referred to as the least inhabitable or least remote place on the planet, then you've got the whole mutiny on the bounty trip, mixed ethnicity, inbreeding,`rape, incest, colonialism and rule of law. A number of commentators are viewing it from the perspective of England holding onto their colonial authority in so much as the charges date back to the visit of a female constable and her report set it all off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

heard a couple of rape stories when I ended up on the west coast of pei... was a lot more remote than I thought it was going to be out that way, apparently most tourists go to the Charlottetown side of the island (this was over a decade ago though, heard things have changed)... the guys I heard the stories from were organizing their own retaliation, they didn't feel it was a police matter

things can get pretty wierd in isolated society's... the Children of God were a hippy group that started up in the late 60s around California and was a reasonably cool commune from for a while known for their talented musician/street actor children but by the time the 80s came around they had moved into the woods of Quebec and cut themselves off from society... ended up encouraging parents to initiate children's first sexual activites with themselves at a young age and the group leaders had their pick of who they could take as wifes etc... I think it was a sect of their group that cut off that lady's arm because it got gangerous and they didn't want her to go to a hospital because they didn't like communication with outsiders and she ended up dying

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i have a feeling that this exposee will truly destroy the society of the island(s)...i think that it's unfair how the women are treated assuming the allegations are true but to be honest, it's probably the most remote place on the planet - having never read this story would not have affected my life. i guess people everywhere are messed up.

too bad the news has to bring bad tidings from around the globe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really think the 'outside' world's cultural norms don't apply on Pitcairn. I mean read or watch Mutiny on The Bounty and then imagine the original descendants inbreeding and fu©king each other for years and years- just a whole different ball of wax.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I appreciate that megs. I'm not just talking about cultural relativism I mean this place is and has always been off the map (literally). It was populated by mutineers and their tahitian woman. It is more of a Neitzschean 'life in a moral vaccuum' point I'm making but I take your remarks to heart.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with you, Sugarmegs. I have always been much more of a Kantian than a Nietzschean ethicist. I believe that Immanuel Kant had it right with his concept of the objectively metaphysically true "categorical imperative", which tells us (among other things) to never treat people as "means", rather as "ends" in themselves. Using young girls for one's own sexual gratification is exactly opposite to this idea.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I think it was a sect of their group that cut off that lady's arm because it got gangerous and they didn't want her to go to a hospital because they didn't like communication with outsiders and she ended up dying

are you thinking of The Ant Hill Kids commune?

they were just down the road from the farm i currently live on, right here in Ontario!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...