Saturday 22 October 2016

'The night I was raped and threatened with knife will stay with me forever' - Woman raped by her husband said she still lives in fear

Conor Gallagher

Published 18/07/2016 | 14:59

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A Dublin woman who was beaten by her husband with a hammer has thanked a passer-by who set his dog on the man and chased him off.

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The 46 year old victim said that before going unconscious she feared she was going to be murdered in front of her four year old son after seeing the “absolute determination” of her husband to kill her.

She made the remarks during the sentence hearing of her husband who was convicted last June at the Central Criminal Court of raping and threatening to kill his wife over a three month period after refusing to accept their marriage was over.

It was only the third conviction of rape within a marriage since marital rape was made illegal in 1990.

The 42 year old man had his barrister read a letter of apology to the court for the hammer attack but made no reference to the rape or other charges.

He said he was “utterly reckless” and blamed the “alienation, humiliation and emasculation” he said he suffered during the break-down of their relationship.

Defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC said his client was judged to be at a low risk of committing future violence and that he was ashamed of his actions.

Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, contested this, saying the accused had made phone calls from prison to his wife which showed he “does not have a positive attitude towards her”. The court heard she is terrified of him getting out of prison.

The woman took the stand to read out her victim impact report.

Here it is in full. Names have been removed to protect her identity:

All of the crimes both individually and collectively have had a devastating and long lasting impact on me and (my son), who is 6 now. I have tried my best in this victim impact statement to put into words the effect on me and (my son) of the threats, rape and violent assault. Spending a significant proportion of my life with (the accused), living together and importantly having a child together makes the impact of these crimes so much more devastating and harder to come to terms with. From the time our relationship was breaking down there was a slow build-up of threatening, controlling and abusive behaviour. From May 2014, the threat to cause me serious harm and to kill me combined with my every move being tracked made me absolutely terrified. Trying to keep life as normal as possible for (my son) and in the beginning not telling anyone what was going on, thinking I could find a way to solve the unsolvable, left me in a complete state of confusion and turmoil.

The night of the 25th May, when I was raped and threatened with a knife will stay with me forever. From the moment I walked in the hall door and saw (the accused), I knew I had got things terribly wrong, his complete insistence and entitlement to me and (my son) no matter what. The complete terror I felt when he took out the knife. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop him. That is one of the hardest things to live with. The rape left me with a complete sense of powerlessness, like everything of me had been taken away from me. Being raped has affected every piece of me, it went to the core of myself, I felt so broken and for a long time angry with myself for what I saw as 'letting it happen'. The terror (the accused) continued to put me through during that never ending night, the constant threats, instilled a level of fear that I never knew I could feel. It is always that night with (the accused) standing over me saying 'you better be telling me the truth' that comes back to me in my nightmares, there have been many nights over the past two years that I purposefully tried not to sleep as it was far better than waking up drenched in sweat and terrified. My sleep pattern has never recovered since that night.

Deciding to make the statement on the rape was so difficult because it meant admitting to myself what had happened. It took me 5 months to report it to the guards and I couldn't have done it on my own. Knowing that I was safe as he was in custody, the support of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and critically because of the support provided by the investigating guards since the assault of the 7th August, my trust and confidence in how it would be dealt with and in the criminal process had grown. Yet still I found the word rape so hard to use in relation to me. The realisation in August that nothing was going to stop him, court orders and guards didn't make any difference. The impact of the threats, hearing and then seeing the absolute determination of (the accused) to kill me, will always stay with me. His cold determination and focus was so clear on 7th August when he kept hitting me with the hammer, even when other people came. I remember trying to pull him away from my mam and seeing blood all down her face. My memory of being repeatedly hit on the ground with people all around me still leaves me with a feeling of terror. The level of violence shown to me and my mam on that day completely changed my outlook on life. It broke a whole sense of security surrounding my life that I never knew was even there. I will never forget, before I went unconscious, looking down at the door of the room where (my son) was sleeping and thinking whatever happens now don't come out, don't see this, I believed in that moment I was going to die. I know if it wasn't for the actions of (a passer-by) I may not be alive. All my family will be forever grateful to him.

The psychological impact of that day cannot be erased, I can never comfort myself when I feel afraid now, that a terrible thing will never happen, nothing is impossible now. A critical impact on me has been a loss of trust and belief in myself. I lost trust in my own judgement and my ability to make decisions, I was constantly questioning my own instinct - It is very hard to describe what it's like not to trust your own gut instinct. Constantly asking myself- how could I not see this coming, completely underestimating (the accused's) reaction to separating, how would anyone believe me, how and why didn't I prevent particularly the rape, and going through all of the questions again in the course of the trial, that I had asked myself so much over the last 2 years.

Despite the reassurances from very supportive friends, guards and other professionals it is a long road to overcome and really believe in myself again. While everything in my head rationally knows that I have absolutely no responsibility for each and every one of these crimes, it's a very different thing to feel it and believe it. I am one and a half years in counselling and I am not there yet. It's still a very conscious effort and struggle. Hearing the verdict to the charge of rape really brought that home, the absolute relief I felt that I had been believed. Over the past two years I have struggled with staying in the moment, at home with (my son) and in work, - the smallest thing can bring the events back. While I know I am function well, being the best mam I can be and doing my job well, it continues to be a very conscious effort. There hasn't been one day where I haven't thought about what has happened. That effort can be exhausting, there are days I wish so much that I could just turn it off for a while.

The four bail hearings, (including District and High Court) and the very lengthy trial process intensified that constant reliving, particularly of the rape and the assault as I felt I had to keep going back over the events and it also my increased sense of fear as I continually worry what will happen to me and (my son) on his release. Even now with (the accused) having been found guilty, I still feel a deep level of fear of what will happen in the future.

The impact on my relationship with my parents is significant as I went to their house on the 26th of May and on the 7th August to be safe. I continue to feel very responsible for changing their lives utterly and bringing violence and fear to their home. I feel particularly for my mam who has not been the same the assault yet has always been a constant support to me and (my son). I know all my family have been affected by the events.

The immediate impact on (my son) after 6th and 7th of August, was that he had nightmares, he wanted to be with me and know where I was all the time, this meant letting him know if I was going into a different room in the house or upstairs. He would never go to asleep for anyone but me. Slowly that anxiety passed. But days before the trial he received a card from (his father), he was very upset and asked if (his father) was going to hurt: me and nanny again. His anxiety and all the symptoms returned and I realised how deep rooted the impact was on him and how it can easily be triggered. How does a child grow up and cope with knowing his father harmed his mother so badly, to use a knife and hammer, to rape her. (My son) finds it very hard now to understand how his dad could hurt his mum and his granny. He is conflicted by his own feelings towards (his father). (My son) also has an acute awareness of when I am anxious and worried. I don't know what the long term impact on (my son) will be, but I worry so much about it and trying to adapt to and negate it as much as possible will always be a constant feature of our lives.

I will continue to use all the professional support around me to give (my son) the most secure and happy environment in which to thrive. But I wish he wasn't faced with this - no child should have to come to terms with these horrendous circumstances. All of these events have changed me and for a while, I wanted to go back to be the person I was, to find this 'closure' that so many people have spoken to me about. With support, I have stopped doing that now, what has happened is part of who I am now and has changed my perspective on life, particularly with regard to mine and (my son's) safety and security which was always be a feature of our lives. But this experience and these events don't define me, the inner strength and courage that I found, which kept me alive during some of those horrendous events and sustained me up to and during this trial, gives me and (my son) a strong foundation for living very positive and happy lives.

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