A 17-year-old victim who was raped and abused for many years by her grandfather has told a court that she hopes her case will help other victims of sexual violence.
The 79-year-old man was before the Central Criminal Court for multiple counts of sexual assaults against three grandchildren at two locations in Connacht. He cannot be identified to protect the anonymity of the victims under the Children Act.
At the start of his trial in May the man pleaded guilty to sexual assaulting the three girls when they were aged as young as between five and 14 years old.
Unanimous guilty verdict
He continued to deny raping the oldest girl and these charges went to trial. The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on the six counts of raping the child on dates between September 2014 and September 2018. The victim was aged between 10 and 14 at the time of the rapes.
The man continues to deny raping this girl, while admitting that he began molesting her in 2009 when she was five years old.
John Fitzgerald SC, prosecuting, told the court that the man would molest this girl while taking her out on the tractor on his farm and also in her family home.
When she turned 10, he began raping her and this continued for four years. The child told a friend who told her to tell her parents and in 2019, the girl wrote a letter to her mother disclosing the abuse.
In her victim impact report she said that her grandfather destroyed her childhood. After abusing her he would tell her “it was our secret” and that he loved her. She said she felt dirty.
She described watching as her mother read her letter in November 2019 and feeling like a massive weight was lifted from her. She said her parents comforted her and told her, "not to worry and everything was going to be OK”.
She said that “letting go of this secret I had for so long” was a relief, and “by doing this I hope I give other victims the courage to let their voices be heard”.
Her younger sister was aged eight when her grandfather began molesting her in 2016. He continued sexually assaulting her for the next three years.
She described her hands shaking and her vision blurring when she wrote down on a piece of paper that her grandfather had molested her before giving the note to her mother.
“I was so anxious,” she said, and she ran off and burst into tears. She said her parents hugged her and told her they were going to support her.
Robbed of childhood
She said her grandfather robbed her of her childhood.
“I used to love affection and long hugs. Now I do everything to avoid being touched. It hurts my family. I hate being touched,” she said.
The youngest victim, now aged 12, was aged between six and nine when her grandfather molested her. In her victim impact statement she said that “the person I loved dearly hurt me” and that he took her trust and used it as a tool to abuse her.
She said she has nightmares where he comes and hits her parents and shouts at her. “Whenever I think about him I get upset and angry,” she stated.
She said that she wanted to tell other victims: “If someone is hurting you, tell someone”.
Justice Karen O'Connor told the three girls, who were present in court with their family, that they are extraordinary young people who had shown great courage.
She noted the impact of the crimes on each child as well as the impact on their parents. In a victim impact statement, their father had said that the defendant used his daughters' innocence to carry out the most grotesque abuse.
He said he and his wife felt guilty about what happened. He told the defendant “I am broken by what you did to my girls” and said he is haunted every day by the idea that “I didn't protect them”.
“I can never forgive you. You have robbed them of so much of their childhood and shown them too early in life how cruel life can be. Not once have you shown any empathy or sorrow,” he said.
Sentencing on Monday Justice O'Connor said while she had to taken into consideration the man's age this was not a case where there was a delay in prosecution or that the defendant had since led an unblemished life.
There was no reaction from anyone in court to the sentence.
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.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.