Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sex Slaves: The Psychology of Mastery


Ronald van der Plaat
Ronald van der Plaat

The judge described the man's actions as despicable, the man as arrogant, and the New Zealand-based jury apparently agreed. After only three hours, they convicted Ronald van der Plaat on all counts of abuse of his daughter. He received fourteen years in prison, but that did not stop him from continuing to torment "Tonya" from behind bars. For many years, he had kept her as a sexual slave, even forcing her to marry him, so in his mind she belonged to him — even if she was free and he was not. Apparently prison bars were not going to stop him from exerting his will. Unfortunately, the law was on his side.

Tanya grew up in New Zealand, where she claimed she had been the victim of abuse for over a decade. An only child, she was raised by her mother, Charlotte, until she was nine, when her parents reunited on the paradise island of Vanuatu. There her father progressed from secretly groping her to rape to bondage and torture. When the van der Plaats separated again, according to, Tonya's father took over custody while her mother moved away. Having Tonya all to himself allowed van der Plaat to do whatever he wanted.

During visits, Tonya would try to tell her mother what he was doing, but Charlotte apparently grew angry at her for saying such things. When she was 15, she claimed, her father forced her to marry him in a private and reportedly bizarre ceremony. And the abuse continued. To reporters, she said that he had tied her up, hanged her upside down, blindfolded and gagged her, drugged her, beat her, burned her with hot wax, and placed painful clips all over her body.

Only when she met the man who became her legal husband did she find the strength to escape, but van der Plaat kept hunting her down, even as far as Germany, so to gain her freedom, she turned him in. The police were skeptical of the story she told, but they found in van der Plaat's possession a card on which he had written his threats of rape and torture to Tonya. Searching his home, the police found hundreds of nude photographs of Tonya as a girl, along with a stash of bondage equipment, precisely as she had described it. Thus, they came to believe her, especially when other evidence corroborated what she had said, so van der Platt ended up in court.

Yet he denied everything, insisting that his daughter had made it all up. The jury thought otherwise and sent him to prison in 2004, but he then filed a lawsuit against Tonya for fraud. To add insult to injury, her mother paid for it, to the tune of more than $100,000, which included hiring a private detective to hunt her down wherever she settled with her husband.

In short, Tonya has found no peace. Because van der Plaat could no longer physically control her, he exerted mental control by using the legal system to keep a connection, as well as to punish her with crippling bills. Tonya had to sell her home to defray costs and at one point suffered from a near-fatal heart attack. Because there is currently no law to protect victims from offender harassment, Tonya must endure even more abuse. She sees no end in sight.

But some victims do manage to get away and re-establish themselves.

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