THE director of Cork’s Sexual Violence Centre spoke of the pain for Cork women whose rapists have died by suicide ahead of their court dates.
Mary Crilly was speaking in the wake of convicted sex offender and accused child trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s death in an apparent suicide at the Manhattan Correctional Centre last Saturday.
The multimillionaire financier had been awaiting trial following accusations of trafficking girls as young as 14.
While the case was high profile, Ms Crilly said she has come across a number of cases locally where a suicide denied the victim justice. “We have come across a number of cases where the perpetrator died by suicide before facing a trial or even after a report has been made,” she said.
“There are two things that can happen to the victim at that stage. They are feeling angry and betrayed and that any chance they had before has been taken away from them. Often the victim feels responsible for the death.
“This can be horrific for a person who has been abused. It makes us realise how an abuser can be in control even in death.”
She urged people not to let sympathy for the deceased undermine a victim’s suffering.
“This is a woman who has been raped, yet she feels responsible. Believing that the suicide came about as a result of the man feeling too guilty to face his friends and family is a mistake. If they did feel that guilty they would have faced up to what they did rather than loading it on top of someone else. All round, it’s the perpetrator wanting to be in control again.”
Ms Crilly highlighted the way in which abuse can destroy a family long after a perpetrator’s suicide. “Even if someone rapes a child, there are some who will still refuse to believe this would happen within their family, it happens somewhere else.
“By pushing the victim away and accusing them of lying they can pretend this is something that doesn’t happen in their family. Even if one or two people disclose this happened to them, they may still not be believed.”
“This poses questions around how much we consider sexual abuse a crime in Ireland. By blaming the victim it’s as if we’re saying ‘this is no big deal. Now look what you’ve made him do’.”
“In other cases family members who believe the victim end up shouldering a lot of the guilt and are asking themselves why they hadn’t noticed what was going on. They need explanations too.”
She spoke of how she felt for the victims of Epstein who — just like a number of Cork abusers — will never face justice.
“I felt angry when I heard about what happened. I also felt that it was bound to happen as there were so many high profile names involved. Now he won’t have the consequences.”
According to MsCrilly, even the women whose abusers face prison are serving their own life sentence.
“Abusers can come out of prison with a college education while the victim is struggling to get themselves out of bed to do anything in the morning. The perpetrator is offered everything from an education to a roof over their head. Meanwhile, the victim can struggle to get food on the table.”
To find out more about the Sexual Violence Centre or the services they provide visit www.sexualviolence.ie.