Saturday 21 April 2018

'He broke my jaw, broke my hips, he raped me multiple times' - Former Senator and rape victim Niamh Cosgrave

Niamh Cosgrave at her home in France
Niamh Cosgrave at her home in France
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

A former Fine Gael Senator who was raped in France four years ago said Irish society must do more to educate itself about sexual violence and rape.

In the wake of the George Hook controversy, where the now-suspended broadcaster made remarks about rape victims, Niamh Cosgrave said Irish society must do more to protect its men and women.

“Even if a woman is half naked, swinging out of a lamppost, it’s an indication for someone to call an ambulance for her, it’s not an indication for someone to rape her.”

“We have to educate our children. I’ve seen parties where kids are 17 or 18, and they’ll ask can we have a party, but imagine if one of the girls gets a bit drunk and a man then decides to take her down to a tent or something. What happens then? We need to educate them.”

But equally, Niamh says men must be protected too.

“When women wrongly accuse men, that’s absolutely disgusting. We need to protect our men as well.”

On the night of September 4, 2012, Niamh, who is now 53, woke to every woman's nightmare. She was raped multiple times and beaten to the extent that she was left with a broken jaw, broken hips, and bruises all over her body.

Her attacker, Christian Gladieux, turned out to be a married man who lived minutes from her house, and who had seen her doing charity work for the Red Cross, where he had queued for food.

He was already a serial rapist. He was jailed in 1998 for breaking into a female neighbour's house and repeatedly raping her. In 2010, he was sentenced for sexually assaulting a minor.

Two years ago, Gladieux was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a further 10 years of psychiatric supervision on his release.

Tonight, Niamh appears in a harrowing TV3 documentary “Unbreakable” where she once again gives a piercingly moving account of the night he raped her, and how she has tried to recover ever since.

“I’m on medication for post traumatic stress,” she told last night, having landed in Dublin to be with her family for the broadcast of the film.

“I had bruises everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. One of the gendarmes (police) was a woman and she said to me “all men are pigs”. And I said “I have four boys and they’re not pigs.”,” she told

But she said of that night: “I heard nothing at all. Normally I keep the back door open, it’s a small town in France where I live so there was no reason to think I was in danger. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I was more annoyed than anything because I thought it was my dog.”

But she said: “I saw the tracksuit and runners. He started to masturbate, he used some disgusting words… he broke my jaw, broke my hips, he raped me multiple times.”

“I remember sitting up and thinking, [to the police] take as long as you like and catch him, because he’s going to kill the next one.”

In the documentary, Niamh returns to her former home – the scene of the crime – with her brother.

“I became a recluse in my own home… It took me months to leave my house, and I did it with the help of a psychotherapist, and with home help from the HSE (Niamh has home help since she was infected with Hepatitis C through the contaminated blood product Anti-D), and with my wonderful neighbour.”

“For me, I hope [the documentary] educates people, especially after the scandal with George Hook. I really hope it changes people’s minds to educate themselves about rape.”

“I felt contaminated. I could see people looking at me and turning away and going to another area. I felt ‘oh my god, am I filthy, am I a dirty little secret."

“There is no right or wrong way to treat a rape victim, but silence is the killer.”

 “You’re not you. That part of you is gone and you know it’s gone forever. It doesn’t just touch your soul, it touches your body, it touches your whole being.”

Unbreakable: True Lives will air on TV3 Thursday September 21st at 10pm.

If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s National 24-hour Helpline on 1800 77 8888, or see their website on

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