Cian Farrelly knew the weight of the shame and trauma he placed on his young sister would work in his favour and keep her silent.
Even at age 15, when he started abusing her, he knew what he was doing to six-year-old Aoife was wrong – that is why he swore her to secrecy.
He knew she was terrified. And he knew he was harming her in the most obscene way, but that did not stop him.
Aoife used to scream and cry and fight him off, but he overpowered her many times.
But on the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice yesterday, Aoife found her voice.
The justice system delivered for her, and Cian Farrelly is in jail, albeit for just three years, for the violent rape of a child.
But he has been finally held to account for his horrific crimes. And Aoife finally feels free.
Farrelly is now 30-years-old. He has lived a somewhat charmed life; as a gifted traditional musician, he travelled the world performing with a professional dance troupe.
Aoife (21) is equally talented, but her life has been marred by the trauma inflicted on her.
Today she tells the Irish Independent what the abuse has cost her and what she hopes can be achieved by waiving her anonymity and speaking out.
“I finally feel I have taken control of the situation. I don’t have a lot of control over many things. And now this is over; I’m in charge of the rest of my life.
“I’ll always carry this with me, but I’m hoping this is the start of a healing process for me.
“But no matter what sentence he received, it would never be enough.
“If anybody out there reads about my story and they are going through the same thing, I hope I can give them the courage to speak up. I hope I can help someone.
“I hope the more light shed on this darkness will make people like him think twice because he has absolutely ruined my life.
“He has ruined my whole world, including my relationship with my parents.
“It’s 14 years I have had to deal with this, but it’s a life sentence. He might be in prison, but I’m in prison in my head every day.
“I’ve torn myself apart and sacrificed everything I have for this.
“Hopefully, now I will eventually start to live, not just survive as I have been.
Justice Paul McDermott yesterday sentenced Farrelly to four and a half years, with the final 18 months suspended for raping and sexually assaulting Aoife.
In his judgment, Justice McDermott said Farrelly of Kells Road, Oldcastle, Co Meath, but originally from Ballymanus, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, had “destroyed” Aoife’s life.
The abuse occurred between 2007 and 2009 when she was aged between six and eight.
The court heard that Farrelly was eight years older than Aoife, and she was often left in his care as the family were deeply involved in sport and music.
Farrelly carried out the often violent attacks on Aoife when he aged between 15 and 17.
The abuse initially involved forced touching but escalated to rape.
The court heard harrowing details of Aoife screaming for help and desperately trying to defend herself. But she was violently overpowered by her teenage brother. He placed his hand over her mouth to muffle her cries.
The week before her first holy communion in May 2009, Aoife finally broke her silence and told her parents about the abuse.
When confronted, Farrelly ran out of the house and threatened to kill himself.
He later made limited admissions in a letter to his parents, the contents of which Justice McDermott described as “immature” and “self-absorbed”.
In her victim impact statement, Aoife said she did not blame her parents but hated that they did not understand the profoundly traumatic effect the abuse had on her.
Since then, she has battled severe PTSD, OCD, an eating disorder and addiction. She is now sober, but the lingering effects of the abuse cripple her.
Following his admissions in 2009, the abuse stopped. Life went on, but it was never the same for Aoife.
The fear she felt then has not diminished despite leaving Ireland to escape the memories that haunt her.
“Everyone thought we were friends, but I was pretending the whole time. I was terrified.
“If he was that bad to rape me, what worse could he do, and I didn’t want to find out. I had to pretend. It was swept under the rug. And nobody ever spoke about it ever again.
“I always knew it happened. It was always on my mind.
“Even having a shower and going from the bathroom to my bedroom, I’d bring my clothes with me so he couldn’t see any part of me.
“Hearing his door open and the creaky floorboards, I would lie awake at night thinking it was him coming up the stairs.”
Even now, Aoife has to navigate a world where the smell of aftershave could trigger her as she walks down the street.
“Now, when I eventually fall asleep, I have to sleep facing the door fully clothed in case he comes in even though he is nowhere near me.
“I live in Scotland now, and I’m in my own house, but it’s the same thing.
“I was very bad with OCD rituals as a teenager. I was at the point my hands were red and raw from constant washing.
“If he was in the same room as me, I would have to go around three times and bleach every surface he touched. If he even just walked past my door, I’d have to bleach the handle.
“Even now I have a ritual where I do things in threes. Everything has to be locked, and everything has to be checked.
“I have to make sure he can’t get in even though he is hundreds of miles away from me.
“It’s exhausting. It’s absolutely exhausting.
“I started self-harming when I was 12, and I still do it now.
“Over the past two and a half years, I’ve been reliving it every day – it could be the (smell of) aftershave or if I see somebody who looks like him.
“I’m brought right back to Ballymanus. Sometimes I am a bit stronger, but the bad days are really bad.
“I think for a while people thought I did this (reported him to gardaí) out of revenge. It most definitely is not.
“He’s completely stripped me back to nothing. He took my childhood and teenage years. I needed to reclaim my life.”
Aoife grew up on a farm, but she feels her connection to the place of her childhood has been severed.
“I never felt safe anywhere at home (after the abuse). With what happened, I resent the place.
“I used to love the farm, and even the sight or sound of it triggers me all over again. It’s sad because I am a country girl at heart.”
In her victim impact statement Aoife told how she had loved music, singing and dancing but now feels sick to the stomach and refuses to touch her instruments as it reminds her of Farrelly.
“He has torn my whole world apart and I have lost everything because of him,” she said.
She said her education had also been deeply affected by the abuse and after reporting the offences in 2020, she had to drop out of college due to the sheer amount of stress. She feels this is another thing her brother has taken from her.
She outlined how intimate relationships had been “ruined” by the abuse and her relationship with her parents was impacted. She said she hopes they can reconcile.
Farrelly took the stand at the end of the hearing to apologise to his sister. He told her he knew it would not mean much to her now but he was sorry for the hurt and pain he had caused.
“I destroyed our family and you and anything it meant for me to be your brother,” he said, “I hope you can rise and come out stronger than before.”
Last year, to wrestle control of her life from the past, Aoife moved to Scotland.
“It has helped me. It’s an entirely new life. I have the power for once. There was something comforting about starting fresh.
“It will always be with me. I will always carry it. But I’m a survivor.”