Rape victim tells of suicide attempt

A woman has told of a suicide attempt in the aftermath of a sex attack by 23-year-old Micah James Morgan Harris, who was jailed at the Christchurch District Court today.

The woman was aged 19 when she was raped as she slept by Harris, 23, who immediately admitted the offending.

The woman was not in court but was able to watch the sentencing session before Judge Tom Gilbert on video-link. Her victim impact statement was read in court by her sister.

The statement spoke of being bruised by the rape and the examinations afterwards being “intrusive and painful”. She had found the whole process traumatising and degrading, and suffered from flashbacks, night terrors, panic attacks, lack of sleep, and weight loss.

“I almost succeeded in taking my own life with an overdose,” the victim said in her statement. When her parents found her, her mother began CPR while her father called an ambulance. She had suffered a hypoxic brain injury which caused short term memory loss, and she had later been admitted to Hillmorton Hospital for a month under the Mental Health Act.

Counsel for Harris, Tim Mackenzie, said it was somewhat unfair to attribute all of the victim’s mental health difficulties to Harris, but he did not dispute that the difficulties did occur.

Judge Gilbert jailed Harris for two years seven months, and refused an immediate application for bail pending at appeal to the High Court. Mr Mackenzie had argued for a lower sentence which would have allowed home detention to be considered.

The defence argued that a reduced sentence could be considered because of special features of the case, including Harris’ immediate admission to the victim that he had sex with her while she slept, and his admissions to the police. Harris was very remorseful, had written a letter of apology to the victim, and offered $2000 as an immediate emotion harm reparations payment.

The Crown called for a higher starting point which would put the jail term beyond home detention range.

Judge Gilbert said he accepted that in appropriate cases there was room for departing from the guidelines set by the higher courts, but he said he had granted a generous reduction for mitigating factors relating to Harris.

The rape occurred in November 2018, when the pair had smoked cannabis and the woman had slept at his house but had made it clear to him there was to be no sexual activity. She had then fallen into a deep sleep, and was shocked when Harris woke her and told her what he had done.

Harris believed that he would not have offended if he had not used cannabis, but the judge said “voluntary intoxication” could not be taken into account.

The judge ordered the emotional harm reparations payment.