Monday 11 December 2017

Abuse survivor urges protection for vulnerable

Child sex victim reveals horror of her ordeal

Paddy Clancy

A young woman who said she had sex with 22 older men a total of 57 times when she was only 13 years old has said she wants other vulnerable children to be protected from similar child sex abusers.

The youngster, who is now 20, made a moving plea in her victim impact statement after three men admitted sex assaults on her and two others were convicted by a jury.

Though a former Irish soldier was convicted last June, nobody heard the full horror of the effect that the child sex abuse had had on her until she submitted a written impact statement last week.

Donegal Circuit Court heard how she was the second-eldest in a family of four headed by an alcoholic step-father, whose mother was incapable of parenting, preferring to spend her time on her home computer instead.

It meant that the girl, at 12 and 13, although still playing with a friend's Barbie dolls, was having sex and running wild and often wouldn't be seen at home between Thursday evening and Sunday night.

She hadn't made her Confirmation long before, and, hanging around with girls two and three years older than her, she started having sex with older men.

She said that she initially believed the men were in love with her, and she just didn't want to say no, although she didn't enjoy the sex.

After gardai began an investigation, and it reached the newspapers, she recalled with embarrassment and shame how one headline had said that a 13-year-old prostitute was at the centre of a sex probe.

She was taken into care for the next four years, and, although constantly running away to block out her life, taking drugs, drinking, self-harming and writing suicide notes, she was eventually encouraged to reflect and understand for the first time that she was an innocent child who had been sexually abused.

She wondered whether any man would accept her or whether they would just think she was dirty and stained as she did. She wondered whether she was to blame.

The improvement in the girl was remarkable. In two cases before juries, she went unerringly through evidence of embarrassing sex encounters. She revealed appalling truths about herself and worse about the men who had abused her, and not once did she change her story under severe cross-examination.

There were signs that she had forgiven her alcoholic step-father, who now lives apart from her mother.

She rubbed his arm gently as Judge Gerard Griffin spoke of her dysfunctional family background. Her mother, with whom she says she now has a distant relationship, was not in court.

The judge recalled that lead investigator Gda Liam Feeney and the HSE had acted swiftly when the abuse came to their attention.

The judge said he could only shudder at what might have happened to the victim otherwise.

The girl wondered whether the abuse was all her fault. The judge, who paid tribute to her for her courage, said he could assure her it was not.

The young woman has been out of care for more than two years, is in a steady two-year relationship, and plans to start third-level education.

Meanwhile, former Irish army private Kevin McDonald, 34, has already served a year in jail on a sentence of two years and three months for four sex assaults on her after he was found guilty by a jury.

Then, 30-year-old Paul Gilmore, who played a tape of himself singing a Westlife song while driving the girl to have sex, started a nine-month term in jail on Friday, after he had admitted committing three offences more than six years later.

He was sentenced to two years but the final 15 months was suspended.

Leo Forde, a 26-year-old apartment maintenance manager who denied three offences, was convicted by a jury on Thursday and remanded in custody for sentencing on July 5.

Colin Reynolds, 27, who got married yesterday week, and chef Ronan Lowther, 25, pleaded guilty to one sex assault each and were remanded for probation reports to July 5.

Reynolds admitted carrying out a sex assault when the girl was only 12 years old.

A sixth man, who cannot be named, has denied sex offences and is on bail awaiting trial in December.

In the cases of 16 other names found in the girl's notebook of sexual encounters, the Director of Public Prosecutions told gardai that there wasn't enough evidence to bring prosecutions.

South Donegal Supt Jim Coen said that there could be more prosecutions if further evidence came to light. He paid tribute to his team and to HSE executives for their thorough joint investigation.

Sunday Independent

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