News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
21 Jun 2018
6:20 am

‘House of Horrors’ mom ‘suffers from battered woman syndrome’

Ilse de Lange

A clinical psychologist testified he had never seen the levels of the alleged physical abuse and maltreatment the mother and children were exposed to.

The wife and mom in the 'house of horrors' case appeared in the Springs Magistrate's Court in 2014. Picture: Neil McCartney

A Springs couple who allegedly tried to murder their son and severely neglected and abused their five children for years will only know their fate in August.

Judge Eben Jordaan yesterday postponed their trial for legal argument, but said he would deliver judgment as soon as possible.

The 39-year-old mother and her former husband, also 39, have pleaded not guilty in the High Court in Pretoria to 21 charges, including attempting to murder their 11-year-old son, child abuse and neglect and dealing in drugs from their large double-storey house in Springs, which became known as the “House of Horrors”.

The father denied raping and sexually molesting his eldest daughter for years.

The abuse came to light in 2014 when their eldest son ran to neighbours for help. The father allegedly went to fetch him and severely assaulted him, before hiding him in the Free State, where the police later found him.

Shocking evidence was presented about the severe torture the two eldest children had to endure, the neglected state of the children and the filthy state of their house, where rats ran around freely.

Clinical psychologist Franco Visser testified that the mother suffered from battered woman syndrome after enduring 20 years of severe abuse and torture at the hands of her husband.

Visser said he had never in his career seen the likes of the levels of the alleged “horrific” physical abuse and maltreatment the mother and children were exposed to. It went beyond human understanding that any individual could wilfully treat another in such a manner.

He concluded the mother had reached a level of “learned helplessness” and eventual psychological paralysis within her relationship with her husband. This impacted on her ability to fulfil her duties as a mother, or to do anything to change their circumstances.

Visser expressed concern about the mother’s lack of insight into the levels of neglect sustained by her children and the impact the sustained violence had on her and her children. He said she needed psychological intervention.

He conceded that battered woman syndrome was not a formal psychiatric diagnosis and pointed out the syndrome could not be used as a defence against criminal charges. It could be raised as a factor in mitigation of sentence.

ALSO READ: Tales of torture emerge in ‘house of horrors’ trial

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