independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

€4m rape victim: I want my baby back

A woman awarded a record €4m in damages against a man who raped and made her pregnant when she was a schoolgirl has revealed that she wants to be reunited with the daughter she gave away.

It was a doctor in St Vincent's Hospital who told Jacqueline O'Toole's mother that her 15-year-old daughter was about to give birth.

It was 1973 and, gripped with terror, the teenage rape victim was whisked from St Vincent's to the Coombe Hospital where she delivered a baby girl.

Jacqueline O'Toole, who held her baby only once, named her baby Edel. Within weeks, Edel was placed for adoption.

But before she signed the papers, Jacqueline confided in Geraldine Forbes – her first cousin – that the baby's father was Joe Carrick, a man who sang with them in their choir.

Geraldine begged her best friend not to sign the papers; they would run away together rather than give Edel up for adoption. But their plan to flee was abandoned – they were just 15.

When she told Geraldine that she "had sex" with Joe Carrick – a pillar in their community – Jacqueline didn't know the word for rape and blamed herself for the two-year reign of abuse inflicted upon her.

What Geraldine did not tell Jacqueline was that she too was forced to have sex with Carrick.

"You just never spoke about it (the abuse)," said Jacqueline, who was awarded €4m this week by a jury, the highest award of its kind in a civil sex assault case. "You would have been classed as a little tramp and a whore, that's what I thought I was, so I never spoke about it."

The schoolgirls never discussed Carrick again and hoped to take their secret to the grave. But their world caved in 31 years later when a man known to them disclosed to his family that he had been abused by Carrick in the '70s. The man is also suing Carrick.

Geraldine, herself awarded €700,000 by a separate jury, eventually confided to a work colleague in 2004 after she almost collapsed when her husband asked if Carrick had ever touched her. The mother of five initially denied she had been abused by Carrick, but a day later told her husband Tommo that she had sex with him when she was 12 until she was 16.

"That wasn't sex, that was abuse," her husband replied. The revelations tore the women's lives apart, precipitating bouts of ill-health and depression for both women who were subsequently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress disorder.

For a time Geraldine (now Nolan) used alcohol, consuming up to 15 drinks day to block out the pain.

For her part, Jacqueline walked the streets of Dublin for years to see if she would recognise Edel, whose "little face" has haunted her for decades.

"I want my baby back, I want to meet her now," said Jacqueline through a veil of tears. "I want her to know that even though I am ashamed of the circumstances of her birth, that I really, really wanted her."

One of the hardest things for Jacqueline was telling her son, now aged 24, that he has a sister as the result of a rape. She was a possessive mother when her son was born, refusing to let him out of her sight.

Separate juries awarded the women a combined €4.7m, a new record for abuse. But it is not the money that makes the verdict priceless: the real value lies in the fact that they have finally been believed.

Irish Independent

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