A woman accused of sexually abusing her step-son also allegedly forced him to eat his own vomit off of the floor.
A woman accused of sexually abusing her step-son also allegedly forced him to eat his own vomit off of the floor.

Step-mum’s alleged abuse detailed

Jurors in the trial of a South Australian woman accused of sexually abusing her step-son have heard she also allegedly tied the boy to a chair, force-fed him until he became sick, then made him eat his own vomit off the floor.

The woman, now 60, has pleaded not guilty and is charged with maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place about four decades ago at Trott Park and Reynella in suburban Adelaide.

Opening her case on Thursday, prosecutor Vanessa Burrows said a regime of corporal punishment that "steadily increased in severity" began when the boy was seven or eight years old.

The court heard the woman began hitting the young boy with her hands and objects including vacuum cleaner pipes "in order to keep him in line".

While his father was away at work, she allegedly locked the child in his bedroom with limited food and no toilet, leaving him to urinate and defecate in the room.

"Such conduct by him would inevitably lead to the accused becoming angrier still, and acting violently towards him," Ms Burrows told jurors.

The jury heard that when the young boy was given food he did not want to eat, the woman would tie him to a chair and force-feed him until he vomited.

When he did, she made him eat that vomit from the floor.

Ms Burrows said, as the boy got older, the physical assaults became more severe.

"He will describe being burnt, for example, with an iron, hit with a hammer to his fingers or toes," she said.

"He'll tell you (the jury) about being cut with a serrated steak knife to the finger and thumb, leaving lasting physical scars."

She said he would also recall an assault that caused an injury to his nose, which he later needed surgery to correct.

Ms Burrows said when the boy was about nine or 10 years old, there was a shift in the type of acts that the woman would commit.

"You will hear that they became sexual," she said.

"It is those sexual acts … that are the subject of the charge that is before you."

Jurors heard that, on a number of occasions, the accused allegedly entered the bathroom while the boy was showering.

She allegedly reached inside the shower and grabbed him, sometimes while saying sexual things such as "what sort of girl is going to want this?"

It is also alleged she sexually abused him while he was in his bed at night.

Ms Burrows said that if the child screamed, the woman would put objects including socks in his mouth to stifle him.

She said the abuse only stopped when the woman and the child's father split up, and the accused was no longer left alone with him.

The prosecutor said the accused was not facing any charge relating to the alleged physical abuse, however it was important for the jury to know those allegations as they provide context and 'a full picture of the power dynamics".

Marie Shaw QC, for the accused, said her client denied the sexual abuse took place.

"To put it shortly, my client denies the allegations," she said.

"They didn't happen."

She said one of the issues of the trial would be the "forensic disadvantage" to the accused because the allegations are said to have taken place around 40 years ago.

Ms Shaw also said jurors would need to consider the evidence fairly and put aside their natural inclination to emotionally react.

"The allegations you've heard are not only distasteful, but shocking," she said.

"Any allegation of abuse against a child is distressing."

The alleged victim will give evidence in a closed court on Friday.

The trial continues before Judge Liesl Chapman and a jury.

Originally published as Step-mum's alleged abuse detailed