A woman who sexually abused two young boys in a “heinous” way 30 years ago left them “forever scarred”, a court has heard.
Josephine McMahon (69) pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to two sample counts of sexually assaulting two brothers at an address in Kerry on dates between 1992 and 1996. The boys were aged between four and five and between eight and 12 respectively at the time of the abuse.
McMahon, of Railway Road, Kenmare, Co Kerry, now suffers from a number of serious medical difficulties and is a wheelchair user, the court heard on Friday. The abuse occurred when the boys were visiting the house she lived in.
Detective Garda Darragh McGuire told Thomas Rice BL, prosecuting, that the youngest complainant was sexually abused while McMahon was minding him. He was picking rhubarb in the garden when McMahon fell over and the boy, then aged about four or five, laughed.
McMahon took him into a bathroom, produced a wooden spoon and inserted the handle in his anus, the court heard. She told him: “You won't laugh at me again”. She told him if he screamed it would be worse for him.
As an adult, the complainant told gardaí: “I still remember it to this day”. He said McMahon ran him a bath as he was bleeding in the wake of the assault, and she repeatedly told him it was his own fault.
The court heard that from then on, McMahon started to undress herself around the boy and asked him if he wanted to touch her. She started going to the toilet in front of him. On the second occasion of sexual assault, she urinated in his bath and when he protested, she once again assaulted him with the wooden spoon.
A third sexual assault of a similar nature occurred in one of the bedrooms, the court heard.
In his victim impact statement which was read out in court by Det Gda McGuire, the complainant said he has suffered from “crippling depression and anxiety” as a result of the abuse he suffered. He said he struggled with addiction issues as a teenager and has had suicidal thoughts.
He said he is often triggered by things such as a smell, a word or a thought. He said he blames himself for not being able to move on and has feelings of shame and guilt. It has impacted his relationship with his girlfriend.
“I know I should feel grateful you pleaded guilty for sexually abusing me,” he said. “But I am left with so many unanswered questions. Why me?”
“...I will be forever scarred by what you put me through and I have to live with that.”
The second complainant, the older brother, was abused by McMahon on a number of occasions when he was aged between eight and 12 while he was visiting the same house.
The court heard McMahon touched him inappropriately, often when they were passing each other in a narrow hallway. She exposed herself to him in the toilet and threatened him with the wooden spoon, although she did not sexually assault him with it.
In his victim impact statement, the second complainant said McMahon had engaged in “heinous” abuse and that she robbed him of his childhood and his sense of safety and security.
He said the abuse has affected him and his family, as well as his marriage. He said he has “deep emotional scars”, struggles to express his feelings and is “quick to temper if cornered or trapped”.
Addressing both complainants directly, Ms Justice Karen O'Connor said they had nothing to be ashamed of. She commended them for coming forward, saying it took strength and courage. She said their disclosures of abuse could help other children to come forward about abuse.
The court heard the maximum sentence for sexual assault during the relevant period is five years.
Michael Bowman SC, defending McMahon, handed in a short letter of apology from his client in which she stated: “I sincerely apologise to (the complainants) for what happened.”
The court heard she has no previous convictions, lives an isolated life and has a number of health issues. She has diabetes and is suffering from kidney disease. She is expected to require dialysis several times a week in the coming months, the court heard.
Mr Bowman said it would be a matter of stigma and shame for his client when the abuse she perpetrated was publicised in the community. She has no children, nor any access to children, and does not pose a risk to the public, he submitted. She will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
He asked Ms Justice Karen O'Connor to consider handing down a suspended sentence. The matter was adjourned to June 26th for finalisation.
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.