Wednesday 19 September 2018

Two women sexually abused by their father believed 'this happened in everyone's house'

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Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Two young women who suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of their father have told how the abuse was so constant that they had grown up believing it to be normal and “this happened in everyone’s house”.

John Murphy (60) originally from Bonniconlon in Co Mayo but now a prisoner in Arbour Hill was sentenced to eight years in prison after Judge Rory McCabe labelled him a paedophile adding there was nothing to say he did not represent an ongoing danger.

He sentenced the Mayo man after hearing Victim Impact Statements from Murphy’s adopted and biological daughters and a third victim.

Murphy pleaded guilty to 20 counts out of a 72 count indictment on a full facts basis. The abuse took place at four locations in Galway and Mayo over more than 20 years from 1992 to 2013. 

He subjected his adopted daughter Stephanie Prendergast (29) to years of sexual abuse which started when she was just four-years-old while also abusing his biological daughter Michaela Murphy (19) from the age of 11.

Both women waived their right to anonymity in the hopes of encouraging more abuse victims to come forward.

Ms Prendergast, who was adopted by Murphy and his wife when she was just two, was abused from the age of four to 12 and was subjected to “constant and daily sexual assault”.

“It was constant. It was literally daily. When I think about it now it didn’t feel like sexual abuse because it was a daily event. It was the way I was brought up,” she told gardai.

Michaela Murphy was abused by her father over a three year period  from 2009 when she was just 11.

Murphy, a former member of the Defence Forces, also pleaded guilty to assaulting a third victim on numerous occasions between 2006 and 2013.

In her victim impact statement Ms Prendergast said there had always been “a sense of normality about” the abuse, adding she believed “that this happened in everyone’s house”.

She attempted suicide and self harmed adding: “My life in that house was filled with fear and anxiety”.

It was only when she had her own child that the true extent of the abuse was brought to the surface. She said she couldn’t trust anyone else to mind her child and questioned everybody’s motives.

Michaela Murphy told the court that her father “took away my innocence, the child left inside and destroyed her”.

She said that when she was a little girl and still innocent she felt she had “the best father in the world” but when she was 12 or 13 she realised what he had done to her.

She said she became nervous to bring friends home because of him and was also fearful others would find out what was happening. She said it had taken all the strength she had to finally talk about it.

The court heard that Murphy had come to the attention of social workers in 1988. When he was interviewed by gardai he said he could not recollect all the incidents but admitted he could have grabbed his victims, 100, 500 or 1,000 times.

He told gardai he was sick and needed help.

The court heard Murphy had a previous conviction for sexual assault on a female and was sentenced to five years in 2015. Murphy suffers from Wilson’s disease which affects the liver and underwent a liver transplant 12 years ago after which he was given 10 years to live.

Judge Rory McCabe said the impact on the victims had been cataclysmic. He questioned how the abuse had been allowed to continue for so long and said there were many people who ought to examine their consciences. He sentenced Murphy to eight years in prison without any suspension and ordered that he be supervised for five years post release.

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