Wednesday 25 April 2018

'I was frozen in fear' - Woman sexually assaulted by man on airport bus for three hours

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Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

A woman claims she feared for her life after she was sexually assaulted by a stranger for more than three hours on a national bus service.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was travelling from Dublin Airport to Cork on a night bus when the attack occurred in April 2015.

"I was coming home from a trip on a late night flight and I got on the bus at Dublin Airport to go home to Cork," the woman told Independent.ie.

"I'm a nervous flyer so I had taken a Xanax pill to help my flight anxiety. I sat down near the back of the bus and a man came and sat beside me. We were talking for about half an hour before I told him I had taken a pill and I was going to go to sleep for the journey. I put my head against the window and tried to sleep but all of a sudden the man began to touch me. He sexually assaulted me for the rest of the three-hour trip to Cork."

The woman said that during the attack, she became "frozen in fear".

"I was in a bit of a daze because I was tired from a combination of the flight and the tablet and I became frozen in fear. I knew what he was doing was wrong but I was stunned.

"I know now I should have screamed or called out for help but he had me boxed into the window and he was fidgeting with something in his bag so I was afraid he was going to hurt me."

She added that she blamed herself after the incident.

"I blamed myself for not doing anything to stop it. It was very bad. When we arrived in Cork and the lights came on the bus he stopped. When I went to walk past him he said 'that's what happens when you take tablets'.

"Other women may not report such crimes because they reacted like I did. They may think that because they never fought back, they allowed the sexual attack to happen. My own relatives questioned it and that made me feel even worse.

"I got off the bus and ran to my husband and I told him what happened in the car. I was so upset and we decided to go to the gardai."

The woman said that while the gardai were helpful, she felt like she was being treated "no different to the criminals".

"I was interviewed in the same rooms where they interview criminals. It was dark, dirty and cold. There should be a room for victims that is more comfortable and brighter, like in hospitals where they have family rooms."

The woman added that she was devastated when she had to face her attacker in court.

"When I saw him in court I was terrified and began to have a panic attack. I burst into tears when I saw him.

"I pressed charges because I wanted to protect other women. I have daughters who use the bus regularly and I don't want them or any other woman to go through what I went through.

"I prepared a victim impact statement for the court and the judge said it was a bit dramatic. That was devastating. I told the truth from the beginning and never dramatised anything. I felt terrible when I heard that and that made me feel like I had done something wrong."

The victim said her attacker was convicted and was given a €500 fine, €300 of which he was ordered to pay her.

"This was never about money. This was about justice and protecting other women and I don't think that was achieved. There was no justice for me or for other women.

"I wonder if the victim had have been the judge's daughter, would the punishment have been the same?

"I'll never forget that frightening assault. I have panic attacks now regularly and had to undergo counselling. The impact it had on my life was devastating and he walked away with a fine.

"The investigating gardai were tremendous throughout the course of the investigation, but I feel the justice system fails women."

If you have been affected by the above issues you can contact the rape crisis centre on 1800 77 8888

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