Daily Telegraph, 6 January 2020
One of the most horrifying things about rape is how many times some sexual predators get away with it. Take the black cab rapist, John Worboys, who was given two more life sentences last month for attacks on four more women, and has confessed to targeting 90 victims. Now another man has been exposed as probably the most prolific rapist in British legal history, following a trial which saw him convicted of a staggering 159 sex offences against 48 men.
In a case that offers insights into the rarely-reported phenomenon of male rape, it has been revealed that Reynhard Sinaga preyed on men in Manchester for as long as ten years, inviting them into his flat where he drugged and assaulted them. The 36-year-old postgraduate student was finally named today, at a sentencing hearing where he was given life with a minimum term of 30 years. He was already serving life sentences imposed at two earlier trials, which took place in 2018 and 2019.
Rape is often portrayed as a one-off offence, carried out by an opportunistic offender who then supposedly reverts to his ‘normal’ existence. The cases of Worboys and Sinaga offer a very different picture, showing how calculating sexual predators are sometimes able to commit identical crimes for years without being apprehended. It is a measure of how far rape is from the minds of most men that so few of his victims considered the possibility of assault when they woke up in a total stranger’s flat – or perhaps they couldn’t bear to think about it
Sinaga, who has several degrees and is originally from Indonesia, was convicted of 136 counts of rape, eight of attempted rape, 14 of sexual assault and one of assault by penetration. Because he drugged his victims, most of them woke up with no memory of being attacked. Judge Suzanne Goddard QC described him as ‘a highly dangerous, cunning and deceitful individual who will never be safe to be released’.
Even now, many of his victims have not been identified. Only two men went to the police, the first in April 2017 after he woke up disorientated in an unfamiliar room with an Asian male. He didn’t remember what had happened but later had flashbacks of being sexually assaulted, which led him to report the attack a couple of days later. Unfortunately, he was unable to identify the address where the assault took place. Sinaga remained free until June that year when a teenager regained consciousness to find himself being attacked.
He managed to fight off his assailant before escaping and calling the police, who initially treated Sinaga as the victim. It was only when they examined his mobile phone that they discovered a recording of Sinaga assaulting the boy. Their inquiries subsequently revealed a second phone, and around 800 videos of Sinaga raping or sexually assaulting unconscious men.
The police were able to identity some of them from videos and personal possessions – mobile phones, ID cards and watches – that Sinaga stole from his victims and kept as ‘trophies’. But they believe he may have targeted as many as190 victims and are appealing for men who think they may have been abused by Sinaga to come forward.
It is well-known that most female victims of rape don’t go to the police, fearing they will not be believed. It took years for allegations to emerge against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, whose trial on charges of rape and sexual assault begins in New York today. A nightmare scenario in which the victim finds herself accused is currently playing out in Cyprus, where a British teenager who reported an alleged gang rape has been convicted of ‘public mischief’. In the Worboys case, two of his victims eventually won a Supreme Court case against the police for bungling their investigation into the serial rapist.
The Sinaga case is unusual in that most of his victims didn’t know they had been raped until they were approached by the police. Some elected to give evidence against him, using victim impact statements to describe the drastic effect on their lives. But in a telling indication of the shame that attaches to male rape, dozens of victims didn’t want to go to court, leaving them to struggle with the long-term consequences of learning they had been assaulted.
Prosecutors believe that Sinaga took ‘a particular pleasure in preying on heterosexual men’. It is likely that the silence about male rape worked in his favour, leaving most of his victims in the dark about what had happened. Some even thought Sinaga was a good Samaritan, believing his story that he’d invited them inside to charge their phones or after finding them unwell in the street.
The fact that such a prolific offender got away with it for so many years shows the need for greater awareness of male rape. One American study describes men as the ‘silent victims’, and suggests that they express particular concern about ‘reconciling their masculine identity with their experience of being raped’.
Whether they target men or women, emerging evidence about the apparent impunity of serial rapists is extremely disturbing. And while counselling services are already over-stretched, it shows the urgent need for better resources for victims, police and prosecutors.