Tuesday 23 January 2018

Brave sisters go public to shame paedophile father

Amy Barrett Picture: Collins Courts.
Amy Barrett Picture: Collins Courts.

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A woman who was sexually abused by her father has said she suffered feelings of "guilt, shame, embarrassment and hurt" for years, but was now "handing them back to my dad".

Brave Amy Barrett and her sister, Melissa O'Keefe, waived their right to anonymity to have their paedophile father Jerry O'Keefe named.

O'Keefe (69), a retired soldier of Oakhill, Youghal, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to raping Ms Barrett over a five-year period when she was a child and to regularly abusing Ms O'Keefe.

He pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three charges of rape, five of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. These were nine sample charges out of a total of 78 covering a period from January 1980 to March 1987. He will be sentenced next month.

Sergeant John Sharkey told Timothy O'Leary SC, prosecuting, that the three charges of rape and two charges of indecent assault relate to his eldest daughter, Amy Barrett, and took place at the family home at The Arch, Youghal, Co Cork. The abuse ended in 1985 when Mrs Barrett was aged 12.

Sgt Sharkey said the remaining charges related to the abuse of the younger daughter, Melissa O'Keefe, which took place at the family's new home at Catherine's Street, Youghal, Co Cork.

Melissa O’Keefe Picture: Collins Courts
Melissa O’Keefe Picture: Collins Courts

The women reported the abuse to the Southern Health Board in 1999 after attending the Rape Crisis Centre in Cork.

As a result, O'Keefe agreed to leave the family home and no further action was taken against him.

Ms O'Keefe said she went to gardaí in 1999 but withdrew the allegations after her parents confronted her. Both victims reported the matter to gardaí again in October 2014.

In her victim impact statement, Amy Barrett described her childhood as very traumatic. She said she found making friends very difficult and attempted suicide after the birth of her first child "just to get some peace".

Mrs Barrett paid tribute to the Rape Crisis Centre in Cork, who she said supported her throughout the last few years since she reported the matter to gardaí. "I have had feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and hurt for years but today I hand them back to my dad," she said.

A victim impact statement on behalf of Ms O'Keefe was read out to the court. "I went to gardaí to make a complaint in 1999 but my parents confronted me so I had to lie and say I made it all up," she said. "If I get a certain smell or if someone moves in a certain way, I freak out. But today I finally have the voice that I didn't have when I was 16," she said.

Irish Independent

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