A man who first began sexually abusing his three-year-old sister when he was 10 years old has been jailed for 18 months for various sexual assaults against the victim.
At a sentence hearing last week, the court heard that the victim reported the abuse to her parents when she was four years old and the family attended one counselling session before her father decided they would not be returning for further sessions.
The girl also attended the family GP around the same time in July 1991, where it was recorded that she had been sexually abused by her older brother and there were some injuries on her genitals. The abuse continued for a further five years despite both of these reports being made.
The 43-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his sister, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to a charge of indecent assault on dates between November 3rd 1989 and November 3rd 1992 in their family home in a Co Wicklow town.
The man also pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one charge of oral rape on dates between January 1991 and November 1996 when the victim was aged between four and ten years old and her brother was between 10 and 16 years old.
It was stated that the first five charges were representative of a continual pattern of sexual abuse of the girl by her brother at that time.
Victim 'let down'
Sentencing the man on Monday, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the adults let the victim down. “The path that may have brought an end to it, was put to an end by her father. Those who should have protected her did not do so.”
He said the fact that it had not been stopped and addressed led to appalling consequences for both the man and his sister.
“She would have been saved an enormous amount of pain and suffering,” the judge commented before he also noted that as the man was 11 or 12 years old when the abuse was reported “alternative approaches many have been handed out in an effort to help him”.
Mr Justice McDermott also noted another unusual feature of the case was the woman’s attitude towards her brother which he said was “movingly and eloquently” put forward in her victim impact statement.
“She is generous and compassionate towards her brother. She does not seek revenge. She hates what happened to her but she doesn’t hate her brother,” the judge said before he added that the woman only wanted the man to take responsibility and accountability for what had happened to her.
He said the woman’s “generous spirit of forgiveness, enormous compassion and understanding” led to her stating that she doesn’t think there would be any benefit to imprisoning her brother.
Mr Justice McDermott acknowledged that the man is genuinely remorseful and ashamed which he said was evident from a letter he had written and his demeanour in court.
He noted from various reports that the man himself was a victim of sexual abuse as a young child and had a difficult upbringing. He accepted his admissions and assistance to the gardaí, the fact that he has no previous convictions and conclusions in two reports that he is unlikely to re-offend in the future.
He accepted that the man was “not mentally equipped to deal with life” and lacked “emotional scaffolding from his parents”.
The judge further accepted that when the abuse began, the man didn’t quite understand what he was doing but noted that it continued into his teenage years, at a time when he had a girlfriend himself, so he “probably understood as he got older the nature of what he was doing”.
He said the man had exploited “a position of dominance” over his sister and used “inducements” such as sweets and carried out the abuse “in a secret manner”.
Mr Justice McDermott sentenced the man to two and half years in prison and suspended the final 12 months on strict conditions.
The judge again commented on the “enormous courage” the woman showed in speaking up as a child and in her attitude towards her brother.
He said she has “embraced life” and is trying to “construct a more positive future”. “What she has achieved shows her great strength,” Mr Justice McDermott said.
The now 36-year-old woman read her victim impact statement into the record in which she said that the day the abuse started her life changed forever.
“Most of my childhood memories relate to the abuse I suffered,” she said. She was robbed of her childhood and innocence in a place where she should have felt protected and described “a darkness” that has followed her around her whole life.
She said she had “a crippling shame” that was not hers to begin with. “I thought there was sometime wrong with me, I blamed myself,” the woman continued before she added that the abuse impacted her relationship with “myself, my family and my friends”.
The woman said she no longer trusted people and as a young child “became fearful, anxious and sad”.
She began taking drugs “as way to numb my feelings and block out the memories of what happened” but she said the drugs only worked for so long and “flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts continue to haunt me to this day”.
The woman said she used to go asleep at night, praying not to wake up in the morning because she didn’t want to wake.
“Healing from abuse is not an easy task. Sometimes I don’t feel well enough to leave my house,” the woman said as she described suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “It takes all my energy some days just to be OK”.
She praised the “love and support of my family and the amazing work of those who helped me” and said she is now studying psychology. “I plan on using my experience for good and to help others someday”.
The woman said she wanted “to take back the power that was stolen from me as a child”.
She said she doesn’t hate her brother. “I only ever wanted accountability”. She said she wondered if there were underlying factors that made her brother do what he did.
“I choose to forgive because I don’t want to be consumed with hate. I refuse to allow this to take over my life anymore,” the woman concluded.
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.