A woman who said she was raped 1,000 times by her foster father from the age of 11 has said that she stands before him now a survivor and is determined not to let the abuse define her.
The 24-year-old woman’s victim impact statement was read into the record at the initial sentencing hearing of her 56-year-old foster father. Mr Justice Paul McDermott remanded the man in custody and adjourned the case for finalisation on Friday.
The Co Wicklow man pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 14 charges of rape, two charges of oral rape and one charge of sexual assault on dates between February 2009 and December 2015. He has no previous convictions.
Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, said the pleas were acceptable to the State on the basis that they were sample charges. She said the woman told gardaí that from 11 to 18-years-old, she was raped 4-5 times per week by the man.
Ms Rowland said that even if the man had raped the girl once a week that would equate to 300 incidences, and if it were the case that he raped her as often as five times a week, that would be equal to over 1,000 incidences of rape.
Counsel said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has directed that the case falls into the “exceptional category” for such offending, given the extreme vulnerability of the victim, the abuse of trust involved, the frequency of offending and the severe and long-lasting impact the rape had on the woman.
She said on that basis, the DPP suggested the case merited a headline sentence between 15 years and life imprisonment.
Disclose the abuse
The court heard that following an initial abuse of the girl while in the sitting room of the family home, the man would regularly come into her bedroom at night and rape her.
The other members of the family, including his wife, were often in the house sleeping at the time. The victim told gardaí she and her two siblings were “spoilt rotten” and wanted for nothing. Her foster mother was not able to have children and they were loved by her.
On one occasion, when there was a party in the house to mark her younger sister’s communion, the victim went to bed with a headache but her foster father followed her into her room. He tried to touch her, telling her it would make her feel better. She pushed him away and he left.
The woman reported the abuse to gardaí in 2019 following a text conversation with the man when he asked her if they “could go again?” She took this to mean that he was asking to have sex with her again.
At that point he had not raped her for a number of years but she was in the house and he had been drinking so she was worried he would come into her room.
It was at that point that she decided that she had to disclose the abuse. She told her younger siblings, her boyfriend at the time and then later the gardaí.
The man was arrested in December 2019. He made no comment during interview. His wife later made a statement to gardaí in which she said he admitted to her that he had raped their foster daughter.
The victim impact statement said the woman was still uncovering the ways the abuse has affected her life and said she had been hurt “in a way that no human should”. “The abuse feels like a life sentence,” she said.
'Craving love and acceptance'
She said she came to the man’s home “craving love and acceptance”. She described how the abuse began with the man asking her to lie on him and act as “his blanket” and how he made this behaviour out to be “a normal thing”.
She addressed the man directly and said he used “my small body for your sexual gratification” and she found it difficult to put into words the “excruciating pain” she experienced.
The woman said she had “feelings of confusion and shame” as she tried, as young child, to comprehend what was happening.
“I was the child and you were the adult telling me it was a secret,” she continued before she added that she felt completely alone and there was “no safe place”.
She described feeling “trapped, helpless and frightened” and said she was too scared to report the abuse because of what may happen her younger brother and sister, who were also living in the foster home.
The woman said she “cried myself to sleep” and said the man would punish her with silence if she refused to allow him to rape her, causing her siblings to wonder what had happened.
She knew speaking up would ruin her siblings’ lives, so she did not disclose the abuse until she was 21-years-old.
She said the impact on her from the abuse was “more than I ever imagined”.
Today is when I start to live. I am determined that I will not let this define me.
“It has torn me to pieces. My teenage years were dark.” She described feeling numb and said she did not want to exist, she was “ashamed and embarrassed”.
The woman said her foster father “stole her identity” and she “felt alienated”. She found studying “immensely difficult” because of the “constant flashbacks”.
“I stand in front of you as a survivor,” the woman said before she added that she missed out on a childhood and her life “turned into a living nightmare”.
She said has been surviving life for 15 years, “sometimes only existing”.
“Today is when I start to live. I am determined that I will not let this define me,” the woman concluded her victim impact statement.
Ronan Munro SC, defending, said his client is “appropriately ashamed” of what he has done. He has started attending counselling and “demonstrates that he is willing to engage to discuss these matters”.
Counsel said his client’s working life and marriage are over. He is living as a recluse as he is ashamed to be seen locally and is drinking about four pints a night to help him sleep.
Mr Munro said there are concerns over his client’s mental health and asked the court to take into account that although he made no admissions to gardaí, he pleaded guilty and spared his foster daughter the ordeal of a trial.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.