Friday 16 November 2018

'We're called survivors but this never leaves us' - child abuse survivor's powerful open letter on sentencing system

Abuse survivor Shaneda Daly
Abuse survivor Shaneda Daly

Shaneda Daly

A woman who was sexually abused by her father throughout her childhood has hit out at the sentencing system for those convicted of rape and child abuse.

Shaneda Daly wants those convicted of these crimes to receive life sentences, which she feels would reflect those that the victims often feel they are serving.

Her father Harry Daly pleaded guilty to 227 charges of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault against Ms Daly between February 1982 and November 1992, when she was aged between six and 17 years old.

He was sentenced by Mr Justice Paul Carney to 15 years in prison in 2011, with five years suspended and is due to be released later this year.

In this open letter she talks about how the trauma of her early years has affected her entire life and why she feels the sentencing system here needs to be reviewed:

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As children we were raped, small little girls. We should have been playing with our toys and friends but unfortunately our abusers decided to violate our small bodies and hurt us so bad that the trauma will never leave us. Standing in front of the world we seem like anybody else but our childhood ended the day that our abuse happened.

I myself will never forget all my childhood living in fear of getting caught.

Imagine that by eight years of age I was so groomed by my father that I worried about him going to prison. This is the man who would rape and molest me. This would continue to happen until I escaped and left home in the middle of the night aged 17.

The least transparent facts of my abuse is that it left a mental trauma.

Yes, I'm an adult now and a mother and grandmother. Yes, to the outside world I'm fine. Yet in my brain and my own little world I continuously feel worthless, unwanted, unloved - I want to disfigure my face and body because it disgusts me.

I read to educate myself as I never got to finish my education as my father wouldn't stop raping me at any chance he got, I could have gone on to do great things in life, I wanted to be in the gardai.

Yet when my father stood in the court he received 15 years and five suspended for his guilty plea as he had never been in trouble with the law.

While I was grateful he was going to prison it shocked me what he got time off for this, he just simply had not been caught before.

What myself and others are speaking out for is consistency in sentencing.

I have spoken about the sentencing in rape and abuse cases not being lengthy enough and questioned why so many suspended sentences are being handed out in the courts for such serious crimes.

Judge Ms Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh said last month in reference to rape cases that a substantial sentence to one judge could be four years and another 14 years, it is somewhat bizarre that an area that is so sensitive has so little in the way of guidance when it comes to sentencing.

We look to the government and judicial system to protect us but how can they fully do this when they have no idea of the trauma that a rape or abuse victim goes through?

Why aren't experts brought in to explain this to juries and judges? Why are sentences concurrent in Ireland? Why do the judges feel they should give time off for any reason when these offenders raped children?

I run a Facebook page called Survivors Side By Side, I speak with people who were raped and abused on a daily basis.

We will never stop speaking out, we will never stop trying to help others and trying to get the courts to understand that it's a life-long battle and our scars are inside of us.

We want to be involved in the change and have our voices heard, so that in the future the whole court system hands out more substantial sentences and they think about the damage done to survivors before giving the offender suspended sentences.

We are known as survivors but the fact is we survived being violated as children but those events never leave our minds, it is with us every day.

While is it more than possible to live happy lives and move forward, the nightmare is in our heads at all times.

Online Editors

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