WOMEN are sharing their terrifying experiences of male violence and sexual aggression in this county with The Kerryman this week in the immediate aftermath of the brutal killing of Ashling Murphy.
The primary teacher’s gruesome killing in a popular walking spot in broad daylight has rocked the entire country, igniting a vital reckoning with the constant spectre of male violence against women.
Now, as communities across Ireland come together in memory of the young musician, women are sharing their stories of frightening encounters with men.
They speak of the terror they have felt at the hands of men attempting everything from urinating on them, to demanding oral sex, and masturbating in front of them, while trying to go about their ordinary lives.
“A man saw me on my own in a remote area and made hand gestures to his male private parts, to make it seem as if he was masturbating,” one woman told this newspaper.
These are the everyday terrifying incidents that women face, happening right here in Kerry on walking routes in Tralee, in Listowel, in Killorglin and in West Kerry.
Ashling was killed while out running on the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Offaly on Wednesday last, January 12 at approximately 4pm.
Her senseless death doing an ordinary event on an ordinary day has sent shock waves across the world. Since her death, thousands have gathered at vigils in Kerry to honour the 23-year old whose life was so callously ended at such a young age.
Some of the names of the women are anonymous or have been changed for legal reasons or because women feared being identified.
Here are their stories:
Etain – Tralee
“As usual, I got my dog ready for a walk. I had noticed two people drinking in the green area in the town park but did not think it was an issue.
“As I continued to walk, I realised they were behind me, both making odd sounds. As I continued to walk towards Presentation walk, they had gained on me. I did start to become wary.
“The only others around were a group of men playing cricket along Rose path. So I decided, near Presentation school, to stand in and pretend to play with my dog. The very next second, I felt someone behind me and his breath on my neck.
“I turned around and yelled, ‘get away from me’. One of the two of them began to pull down his pants and said ‘I just want to urinate on you’. I again yelled, ‘get away from me’.
“At this point, the other started to verbally abuse me. As I continued to shout at them to leave me alone, they walked down the lane way toward Cloonbeg. The Gardaí were called but nothing happened.
“I regularly witnessed the same two harassing women. So I stated to take a photos of them each time, just in case. I have witnessed them taking drugs, too. I felt that the Gardaí had no interest at all.
“I was made feel stupid and ashamed for even getting upset about this, which is why I did not want to be named. I see young women and school girls walking around after dark and feel it’s only a matter of time before something worse happens.
“From what I can see there are no garda patrols in the park despite the fact they, the Gardaí, say there are. The worst part of what happened to me was the two males were so inebriated they probably have no memory of what they did to me and that would have been the excuse if they had been charged.”
Anonymous – Listowel
“My sister (16) and I (22) were out for a walk at about 6pm in Listowel. We stopped at the park and sat down for a few minutes when a group of young men, I’d say in their 20s, walked by.
“One of them stopped and started talking to us, and we made it clear that we wanted our own space and didn’t want to entertain him, but he wouldn’t leave. When I told my sister to walk away, he told us not to. We stayed sitting, and he began asking for oral sex.
“I could see that he was holding his genitals in his hand, which was down his pants, and I felt severely uncomfortable. When we repeatedly told him we wouldn’t give him oral sex, he then told us he would pay us €20. I was more aggressive and assertive with my words than my sister, and he seemed to fixate more on my sister than me.
“I was fully convinced that one, if not two, of us were going to be sexually assaulted or harmed in some way, and I really feared for my sister. I stood up to walk away, and he slapped my bum and said ‘the younger one is coming with me’.
“At this point, his friends were calling him from the other side of the park, and he ignored their calls. My sister began to cry, and I told him that I was going to ring the guards if he didn’t let us leave. He laughed and walked away saying, ‘I’m unbeatable’, while flexing his muscles.
Georgina – Tralee
“I have had a few experiences, one especially, I try to forget.
“I was walking home one Saturday night, I was only 50 yards from my house, when I heard a car coming. It stopped, and this large man got out and shouted, ‘grab the bitch’. There was another man in the car. With the grace of God, a taxi cab came to my rescue, and they sped off.
“If that taxi cab had not come, I’m assuming I would be another woman on the missing list. The cab driver told me I need to report it. I was in such shock that I just went home and locked the door, I never told my parents as they would be so upset. I still think how bad that night could have been for me only for a taxi driver saving my life.”
Sinead – Annascaul
“When I was on my own in a remote area, a man began to make hand gestures to his private parts to make it seem as if he was masturbating.
“He did this whilst in front of me and facing towards me.
“I thought it was extremely intimidating and frightening that a man would think it’s okay to do this to a woman on her own.
“Change is imperative.”
Anonymous – Tralee
“My teenage daughter was subject to a vile case of having a man expose himself to her and order her out of the car in broad daylight in Tralee town during the summer.
“I was just running into a nearby shop with my younger son.
“She was sitting in the car in Tralee. She was hysterical when I returned to the car.
“A man had told her to ‘Get the fuck out of the car’, but she had quickly locked the doors. He walked past her, with his genitals hanging out, shouting at her to get out.
“She captured it on video. She was terrified he would come back and attack her.”
Anoymous – Tralee
“I was running on the River Walk last summer and came up to a group of young men. I felt intimidated, took a second to think ‘Will I turn back?’ I had head phones in, turned down the volume, could hear the jeering, and I felt one of them take steps towards me when I passed.
“I sped up and went down steps at the back of the offices towards the CBS [and] have never gone back there since, and I used to go all the time. My colleague reminded me of that, today, how intimidated I felt.”
Anonymous – Tralee
“I can’t run on the River Walk, because of people drinking there.”
Anonymous – Killorglin
“I’m a mature woman and took up running in my 40s on the back roads around Killorglin. Generally I have felt safe, but two incidents were very threatening.
“In one, a driver on a lonely country road repeatedly passed me and stopped just ahead. There was no possible other reason for this behaviour than to threaten me, and I was very afraid.
“A second incident was when a van driver, on an empty road, swerved across the centre line and almost knocked me over from behind. This also was a definite act of intimidation. I haven’t been prevented from running out of fear, or discouraged my daughters, but threatening behaviour from men is everywhere
Anonymous – Tralee
“I would like to acknowledge the dark area in St Brendan’s Park field where the trees have overgrown near the light...it brings you to the Greenway by Connolly Park.
“I live in Gallowsfield. It’s the most eerie and dark place due to [it having only] one lamppost, it’s ridiculous. People are always hanging out there, loitering and drinking.
“A few years back, my mom was cycling up it to turn into St Brendan’s Park, and a bunch of teenagers tried to stick a stick in the spokes of her bike to knock her off. I had to call guards.
“They were aged 10 to 13 max.”