Monday 16 July 2018

'I wanted everyone to know what he did to me': Woman (24) who bravely waived anonymity to jail vicious rapist

Dominique Meehan who was raped at a gaming convention in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown Picture: Tony Gavin
Dominique Meehan who was raped at a gaming convention in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown Picture: Tony Gavin
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

A woman who was violently raped during a Dublin gaming conference has said she waived her right to anonymity to protect other women from her attacker.

In June, Keith Hearne (28) was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the rape of Dominique Meehan (24) in a hotel screening room during a gaming conference in July 2014.

Speaking on RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke, the brave Donegal woman said she believed she was going to die during the 20-minute assault, in which her attacker told her he would kill her if she screamed for help.

"For me it felt like hours but as far as I know it was about 20 minutes. It was the worst 20 minutes of my life.

Victim Dominique Meehan speaking outside the Central Criminal Court on Monday. Inset Keith Hearne Photo: Collins
Victim Dominique Meehan speaking outside the Central Criminal Court on Monday. Inset Keith Hearne Photo: Collins

"He had his arm around my throat, he had his hand on my mouth. I still had my phone in my hand and I was trying desperately to call someone but because it was a touch screen it was impossible. I was still screaming behind his hand. He told me to drop the phone or he was going to break my neck. At this point I couldn’t breathe so I dropped the phone. At this point he pulled me up. He still had his arm around my throat. He said 'I will break your neck, I will kill you.' At that point I had to stop.

"Because it was the screening room any screaming that came, people would have thought it was from the movies that were being shown. I knew that at the time and it made it seem even more hopeless. I just did what I did to make sure I survived as long as possible until someone came it."

Rapist Keith Hearne was sentenced to 12 years in prison
Rapist Keith Hearne was sentenced to 12 years in prison

Brave Dominique opened up about the aftermath of her vicious attack and said she continues to live with the "torment" of her rape every day.

In the months after the attack, Dominique said she was afraid to go to sleep as she would see her rapist in her room at night and said she began self-harming.

Dominique Meehan with her father William after her attacker, Keith Hearne, was sentenced to 12 years in jail at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Dominique Meehan with her father William after her attacker, Keith Hearne, was sentenced to 12 years in jail at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers

Dominique was admitted herself to a mental health facility in the months after her rape, as she feared she would take her own life.

"I’m living with the torment of it every day.

Brave rape victim Dominique Meehan after the trial Picture: Damien Eagers
Brave rape victim Dominique Meehan after the trial Picture: Damien Eagers

"Because of the amount of medication I was on, every time I woke up I could see him in the corner of my room, walking towards me as he did in the screen room. People talk about the bogey man. He is my bogey man.

"It scared me senseless and I would sit and cry in my room. I would tell my parents in the morning I had a bad dream and they would say ‘Just come down to us’ but I couldn’t.

"Eventually because of the lack of sleep I eventually started getting very suicidal. It started off small. After the attack I was itchy in the places he had held me like my wrists and my knees. I was itching so bad I was taking the skin off and they were bleeding. Eventually that led to a lot of self harm. It moved on to taking too many tablets to try to sleep and drinking. At the end of August, two months after my attack, I said to my mum, ‘If you don’t take me to the psych unit now I’m not going to last the week’."

Dominique said she still fears her rapist, even though she knows he is in jail, and believes she sees him in every day places.

"Even though I know he’s in jail, last week I thought I seen him in Letterkenny shopping centre and I nearly collapsed. I didn’t even have the drive to run away. I just grabbed my friend’s arm and said ‘That’s him, that’s him’.

"Just as the man was getting closer I realised it wasn’t but even two days afterwards I was still feeling the shock and the shakiness and panic attacks," she said.

Earlier this year, brave Dominique made the decision to waive her anonymity in a bid to warn other women about her rapist.

"The convention community is my community and they’re my family. I can’t imagine him going to jail and being able to come back into my community. I wanted everyone to know what he did.

"I’m trying to do what’s right. I’m trying to help even one person to bring their attacker to justice.

"I am making sure Keith Hearne's name will never leave their minds, especially the people of Tallaght where he lives," she said.

Two years on from her attack, Dominique credited the work the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in Donegal and Mullingar, who have helped her begin to rebuild her life after the attack.

"I think the services should be easier to find and hopefully help more people. Anyone who goes to a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, you will be given free medication, a free STI test, if you’re a woman you can get Plan B. They’re lovely, lovely people. If you’re bringing your case to the Gardai they will bring in a crime scene photographer to take care of bruises. If you’re like  me and you were self-harming they will patch up your wounds and they will do everything for you. If you need stitches after a rape they will do that for you. They are very compassionate. They are amazing women," she said.

The survivor said telling her story has helped her begin to recover from the horrific attack, as it helps normalise the services available to victims of sexual assault and she said she will pursue her campaign to ensure harsher sentences for rapists.

"Rape hurts so many people –men and women - and it can’t go on. I’m trying to help this anger by doing something constructive with it. Hopefully it will help people along the way and help get harsher sentences for rapists.

"I’m trying to do what’s right. I’m trying to help even one person to bring their attacker to justice," she said.

If you have been affected by this article please contact the Irish Rape Crisis Centre's 24 hour helpline on 1800 778888 or visit their website on www.rapecrisishelp.ie

For more information on Ireland's Sexual Assault Treatment Units please visit www.hse.ie

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