Gerson F. enters the courtroom that morning, sandwiched between two police officers. With raised shoulders, face down, the defendant takes a seat in front of the judges and prosecutors. His lawyers sit diagonally behind him. Gerson finds it hard when he finds that the case is gaining a lot of interest. Journalists are allowed to follow the trial in the courtroom. “But other interested parties sit in the gallery above,” the judge explains. They have a limited view of the court. “You can’t even see them, so don’t worry about it.”
During the night of the rape on 21 July 2018, Gerson F. rode his racing bike on laps through Rotterdam. He drove back and forth until he spotted the victim at Blaak. He cycled after her all the way to De Esch, where the rape took place. The judge asks him at the start of the hearing about his love for cycling. “I like to move,” says the defendant. “I can easily ride my racing bike for six consecutive hours.”
He was ‘super stressed’ the day before the rape, Gerson says. “Because of my girlfriend N.” In 2015, Gerson met N. in a youth institution. Since then, he’s been head over heels about her and their relationship. “Because of his childhood, Gerson suffers from separation anxiety,” says the psychiatrist who treats him. Gerson’s life revolves around N.
“Not everyone is happy with your relationship. Why is that?” the judge asks. “They think we’re destroying each other’s lives,” Gerson replies. He’s still bent over in his chair with his hands on his face. After a hesitation: “Also because we do SM things together.”
Violence plays a major role in their relationship. The couple is into tying and choking during sex. Sometimes it goes so far that N. becomes unconscious. Gerson also admits that he sometimes hits his girlfriend as well. “I was so angry that I no longer knew what I was doing,” he says. Later, when N. showed the bruises, he was shocked. “I couldn’t remember anything, but I must’ve done that.”
Girlfriend N. lives in a youth institution. When N. possibly had to go to a closed ward, Gerson blew up. “I couldn’t imagine not seeing N. because of that,” he says. The thought alone made him very angry. He wanted to ‘clear his head’ and so he took his bicycle from his home in Slinge to the city centre of Rotterdam. “I cycled aimlessly, occasionally asking for a cigarette from people,” he says.
Hours of cycling didn’t help him. He just got angrier and angrier. “I thought, fuck, man! The whole world is against me.” Around 5 a.m. he was seen on camera footage at Blaak, cycling after the victim. “I was so angry that I wanted to hurt somebody so bad,” he tells the judge.
The judge then describes in detail how Gerson strangled and raped the student. Upon hearing it, Gerson is getting uneasy. He nervously wobbles on his feet and scratches his head. According to him, he can only recall fragments of the incident. “I didn’t mean to kill her or something,” Gerson says. He had to ‘just take the anger off’. The victim could’ve been anyone. He continues with a trembling voice: “The woman shouldn’t have been there.”
The victim almost died because of the rape. After the incident, she was barely able to ask for help from her neighbour. She was then rushed to the hospital. Her face was purple and her windpipe was so swollen that the doctor had to insert a tube to prevent suffocation. Due to internal arterial bleeding, she lost nearly a litre of blood and had to undergo emergency surgery.
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‘I will come out stronger’
The victim wishes to remain completely anonymous, during the trial as well. “This way, she thinks it would be easier to resume her life,” says her lawyer Nelleke Stolk. The victim isn’t present herself, but she has written a statement that is read out by an assistance worker. “You have caused me so much pain that can’t be described,” she writes to Gerson. “But the bitter truth is: you can never hurt me more than you did to yourself. I will come through this difficult time and come out even stronger than I have ever been.”
‘I hope that the verdict will be a signal about how a woman should be treated in society.’
She writes to the judge: “I hope your verdict will be a signal. A signal about how a woman should be treated in society. A signal that coercion should never be tolerated.”
Her lawyer Nelleke Stolk completes the statement. “Even though I’ve seen a lot in my career, I was completely shocked when I saw her,” she says. “But she’s a fighter, she does everything to get it together.” The student demands compensation of 50,000 euro. But the actual damage is actually greater, Stolk says.
The trial is resumed after a one-hour adjournment. While Gerson was fairly calm during the morning, he’s very restless for the rest of the day. “He has ADHD and finds it hard to sit still,” explains his lawyer Tina Sandrk. Gerson received medication for ADHD and antipsychotics but stopped taking it in March 2018. “When I took the medication, my girlfriend found me dull and boring,” he says. He’s stopped taking medication, therefore he has less control over his emotions, says Sandrk.
“Gerson had no sexual intention with the victim,” his lawyer says during her plea. The rape happened during a rage. “Violence is his way of unloading. He has projected his anger and frustration on the victim.”
The expert witnesses have their turn. They advise the judge to impose a juvenile hospital order, because Gerson isn’t functioning at the 19-year-old level. He comes from a broken family, the psychiatrist says. “His mother is deaf and his father aggressive.” Gerson himself was a victim of violence and sexual abuse. At the age of eleven, he was moved out of the house and transferred from one institution to another. “He has never had normal relationships. He didn’t know that sex without violence exists.”
Public Prosecutor demands seven years imprisonment in rape case EUR student
The judiciary suspects 19-year-old Gerson F. of attempted homicide, rape and aggravated…
In addition to the compensation of 50,000 euro, the Public Prosecution Service demands seven years’ imprisonment and placement under a hospital order with involuntary treatment. According to the Public Prosecution Service, the advice of juvenile hospital order is ‘insufficient due to the seriousness of the case’. “He’s every woman’s nightmare,” said the public prosecutor. The verdict will be delivered on 21 June.
Gerson gets the chance for his last word from the judge. For a while there’s only silence in the courtroom. “I don’t know what to say,” he finally says. He takes a deep breath. “But I will work on myself. This shouldn’t have happened.”