Tuesday 22 October 2019

Sex victim: 'they would not serve me in shop'

Woman in Listowel case says she was made to feel like the guilty one

Anne Lucey in Tralee

The woman at the centre of the Listowel sex case controversy yesterday spoke of "dirty looks" thrown at her by supporters of Danny Foley, the man convicted of her sexual assault, and of open hostility in the courtroom when she read her victim impact statement.

She appealed to the people of Listowel, Co Kerry, to let her get on with her life. She estimated that around half the people of the area supported the convicted man.

"People are staring at me, throwing dirty looks at me. I was refused service at a local shop... I don't want to be treated any different to anyone else," she said.

She said she could never forgive Foley, who was sentenced to seven years, with two suspended, after he was convicted of sexually assaulting her in a town-centre car park in the early hours in June 2008.

"No means no," she also said of the night in question.

"I fought that night and I'm still fighting to this day even though he was found guilty," she said.

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In a shaking voice, the 24-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also called for changes in court procedure so victims would not have to read their impact statements in front of a hostile crowd of supporters of a sex offender.

The woman, who broke down during the reading of her statement in a darkened room at the Rape Crisis Centre in Tralee, said she had been made to feel that she was the guilty one, even though he had been found guilty by law.

Dressed in a pink and grey Adidas track suit, she was led into the room by director of the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre Vera O'Leary.

She said she had felt suicidal but her toddler son had kept her going.

She said she could not believe the support she had received from around the country since the controversy first broke last week.

The country was shocked after it was reported that up to 50 people, including the local acting parish priest, Fr Sean Sheehy, had shaken the hand of the guilty man before he was sentenced. Fr Sheehy has since stepped down from his post.

Yesterday the victim said: "When I heard the priest on the radio I was really devastated and shocked at what he was saying about me. The Canon of Listowel parish visited me and wished me well and told me that he was there for me and he hoped me and my son would have some kind of a good Christmas and wished me all the best.

''It meant so much to me. Now I know that that priest in court was only the one man and he didn't represent the Church. I also want to thank the bishop for his apology and support."

She said that when she left the courthouse last Wednesday by a side door under garda escort she had never felt so alone.

"I am amazed and really really grateful to the huge number of people all around the country and even around the world that have sent messages of support. That support is keeping me going. I can't believe that all those people believe in me and took the time to write to me with such lovely messages and to send flowers," she said.

She also vowed not to leave Listowel and said she did not harbour any bad feelings towards the Foley family.

"I don't have any bad feelings towards the Foley family, I can imagine how bad they are feeling and how hard it is for them," she said. But it had crossed her mind to leave Listowel: "Life in Listowel has been hard. I can't walk down the street because it's such a small town. People are staring at me, throwing dirty looks at me. I was refused service at a local shop. . . I don't want to be treated any different to anyone else," she said.

"Hopefully I can stay in Listowel because it is my home town."

She just hoped people would let her get on with her life. "I told the truth. The lies that were told were told by him. . . Sometimes I feel like I am not going to cope, but I have to be strong for my son," she said.

Asked for her view of the sentence, she said: "He's got five years. He's taken the rest of my life away and for that I can never forgive him."

Foley, 35, had been her friend, she had known him for nine years, she had trusted and felt comfortable with him, she also said, but would never trust him again.

"I never hated Danny. I always considered him as a friend. I am hurt. I will never forgive him for what he has done to me. But I can never hate him. I always considered him as a friend."

Not all Listowel was involved in the turn against her, about half were, she estimated, and this was because Foley was so well known whereas she rarely socialised.

"Danny has worked in this town for many years. He was known by a lot of people. He felt popular. I'm a quiet girl."

She felt she needed to do the press conference after what had happened in the court room on Wednesday. "I needed to get my side across," she said.

"As I sat in court last Wednesday a large number of people walked past me and shook hands with and hugged Danny Foley in a show of support.

"Some of them stared at me and gave me dirty looks as they walked past. It felt like a funeral home more than a court room," she said, in the opening paragraph of her statement before a room of 15 journalists and cameramen.

Asked about this during reporters' questions, she said: "I don't think the 50 people should have been left into the room. . . I felt intimidated. When I went up to the stand and started reading it [her victim impact statement] some of them looked away and paid no attention to what I was saying. I heard mumbling and talking among themselves," she said.

She wanted to say to other girls she was not sorry she went to court even though the experience had been "awful, hurtful and frightening for me and my family". She was grateful to the gardai and the Kerry Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre.

She is not going to talk in public again and Ms O'Leary, the manager of the Rape Crisis Centre, said the centre would be making no further comment.

Sunday Independent

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