Benjamin Goundar on trial in Wellington for alleged prison rape

Content warning: This article references sexual assault and violence. Helplines can be found at the bottom of the page.

A man accused of raping his 18-year-old prison cellmate and otherwise violating him every night for several months is on trial in Wellington this morning.

Benjamin Goundar is accused of raping his prison cellmate on multiple occasions, as well as forcing him to perform oral sex every night from mid October 2017 to early January 2018.

He is also alleged to have threatened to kill the complainant if he reported the alleged offending or tried to move to a different cell.

Defence lawyer Karun Lakshman has accused the complainant of “making it all up”.

Goundar’s trial has begun in the High Court at Wellington this morning, before a jury of eight men and four women.

He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of common assault, two counts of threatening to kill, and five counts of sexual violation. Some of the charges are representative of more than one incident.

Crown prosecutor Mitchell Heslip told the jury Goundar convinced the complainant to request a move into his cell, with promises of movies, food and general comfort.

On the first two nights, Goundar brought up the topic of sexual favours and the complainant refused, and on the third night, Goundar became forceful, Heslip said.

He allegedly used physical violence in the form of slaps to the face and punches to the body to force the complainant to submit, and on one occasion when the complainant again said he would leave the cell, Goundar is accused of pulling a shank on him.

Eventually an anonymous tip-off was made and Goundar was moved to a different cell.

The complainant initially declined to make a statement, saying he feared repercussions, but later sent a letter to the police outlining the allegations.

In a video interview between the complainant and the police, he said when the alleged abuse first began he complied out of fear for his safety.

But eventually the nightly incidents became “routine” and he stopped resisting because he did not want to be beaten every time.

“It was easier to do it, get it over with,” he said.

He also described the incident with the shank, saying it was made from a broken piece of plastic cutlery.

“I honestly thought he was going to kill me right then, and that was going to be my life over.”

Under cross examination in today’s trial, the complainant said on the first two nights when he refused to give Goundar sexual favours, Goundar slapped him on those occasions too.

Lakshman said this was the first time the complainant had said anything about being slapped on the first two nights, and said he was just “adding” to his story.

He repeatedly suggested the complainant was “making all this up” and “lying”, which the complainant disagreed with.

He asked why the complainant did not report the abuse straight away.

“He had many friends in the unit, and I believed that if I had told anybody, he would have had those friends deal with me.”

The complainant said he only reported it to police after developing support in the unit from fellow inmates who said they would not let anything happen to him.

The support came after the complainant’s new cellmate, who he was friends with, found out about the abuse and wrote about it in his “journal”, a collection of pieces of paper.

The journal was stolen by another inmate and spread around the unit, the complainant said.

Lakshman questioned whether the journal was actually a “device used in conjunction with you” to get rid of Goundar so the complainant and his friend could share a cell.

The trial will continue through the week.

Where to get help:

• If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand – find your closest one here.
• Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am – 8pm)
• If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.
• Wellington HELP has a 24/7 helpline for people who need to speak to someone immediately. You can call 04 801 6655 and push 0 at the menu.

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