The Independent Asia-Pacific correspondent Marks’s exposé of sordid sexual behaviors demonstrates once again that truth is often far stranger than fiction.
Pitcairn Island is perhaps the most inaccessible inhabited piece of land in the world. About two miles square, the South Pacific island became a refuge in 1790 for crew members who had mutinied on the British naval vessel Bounty. Although the case garnered attention at the time, it was a 1932 novel called Mutiny on the Bounty and two subsequent Hollywood movies that made it part of popular culture. Tourists occasionally visited Pitcairn Island, and outsiders looking for a peaceful existence sometimes settled there. It had a subsistence economy, although beginning in 1940 residents earned some outside income from the manufacture and sale of postage stamps to collectors. Marks, a British newspaper reporter stationed in Australia, became curious about the island in 2000, when authorities began investigating allegations by female residents of systematic rape occurring generation after generation. When she arrived on Pitcairn to investigate the allegations and write about judicial proceedings, the population had dwindled to 47 inhabitants, who did not welcome the press. Marks was one of only six journalists accredited by the authorities. Every day, she circulated among the citizenry, including the accused rapists, several of whom were public officials at liberty on bond. Even more surreal was her discovery that many women on the island defended the men, even though these women, their daughters, nieces and female cousins had experienced rough sex with the accused. Despite the overwhelming evidence of rape gathered by Marks, she continually heard the excuse that the sex was consensual, even when it involved girls who had not yet reached puberty. The various trials brought justice and psychological relief to some victims, but not to others.
Thoroughly reported, but repetitive and relentlessly depressing.