Cork woman abused by her stepmother encourages other victims not to suffer in silence

Cork woman abused by her stepmother encourages other victims not to suffer in silence

Cora Desmond from Youghal, Co Cork pictured at Cork circuit court. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts Limited

A 21-year-old woman who endured years of abuse at the hands of her stepmother has encouraged other victims not to suffer in silence.

Bridget Kenneally was jailed for two years at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday on a charge of assault causing harm to Cora Desmond, who was then aged ten, in October 2009 at 7 Kenny’s Lane, Youghal.

Sergeant Mark Ward said the investigation commenced when a 16-year-old Cora Desmond made a complaint of assault by Bridget Kenneally who was in a relationship with Cora's father.

The victim was taken to Mercy University Hospital with over 50 bruises to her body.

As well as outlining years of physical assaults, she told Sgt. Ward about Ms Kenneally adding chilli, vinegar and strong spices to her food and being forced to eat it.

Speaking to Neil Prendeville on Cork's RedFM, Ms Desmond said her stepmother frequently mocked her as being like Cinderella and was forced to clean the house before school.

“I would usually start with scrubbing either her kitchen or her bathrooms or her sitting rooms. 

“I would start by scrubbing something. Some room in the house had to be scrubbed before we went to school. 

“If it wasn’t done, there was a beating waiting for me when I got in the door,” she said.

Ms Desmond said school was her “only safe, free place” and spoke about how she dreaded returning home.

One of the threats used against her making a complaint was that she would be separated from her sister and father if she told of what was happening.

“I was living in such fear. 

“It was just constant fear and I knew that if I spoke up that it wouldn’t end well for me because she would always threaten that I would be taken away from my sister and my dad and as a child that’s not what you want.

“You don’t want to go into foster care, you don’t want to be separated from your family,” she said.

Ms Desmond eventually told her biological mother about the abuse she was enduring at the hands of her father’s partner.

“I think within about a week or so, I had an appointment to go and see the guards and give my statement,” she said.

Ms Desmond said her mother was “absolutely distraught” to learn of the abuse and said that her father immediately separated from Ms Kenneally when he found out.

“He still to this day feels so guilty that he didn’t notice,” she said.

“At the end of the day, he’s not the one that made the decision to abuse a child, he’s not the one that made the decision to torture someone and brainwash someone. He was doing the best he could as a father,” she continued.

Ms Desmond praised the Gardaí for their help and in particular Sgt. Ward.

“He’s always checking up to make sure that I’m ok and that if I need anything, he’s only a phone call away," she said.

After years of counselling, Ms Desmond says she is now in a good place.

“I’m in a great place now. I’ve worked hard in the last four and a half years with councillors, doctors and my family and friends to get to where I am and to be somewhat happy and enjoying life. 

“Obviously as a 21-year-old there’s stresses and responsibilities but I never pictured myself making it this far.” 

She encouraged other victims of abuse to speak out.

“Anybody who is going through something or was going through something should speak out as soon as possible and get help,” she said.

“You will be believed.”

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