A teenager has told a court that the sexual assault she suffered at the hands of her mother’s former partner left her with “anxiety, sadness, shame and guilt”.
On Monday, the man was jailed for 18 months after he was convicted by a jury last April on one charge of sexual assault of the then 14-year-old girl.
He had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault of the girl at the family home on September 20th, 2017. The man does not accept the jury’s verdict and intends to appeal his conviction. He has four previous convictions for minor offences.
An investigating garda told Sinead McMullan BL, prosecuting, that at the time of the offence the girl lived with her mother, her brother and the accused man.
She was at home sick in bed one day when the man walked into her room. She was wearing pyjamas bottoms and a string vest. The man came into the room and began rubbing and scratching her head before she could feel him pull her blanket off her.
She felt scared. He started to pull down her vest top and her breast fell out. She told him to get out and he replied “That is the last nice thing I will do for you.”
The girl later told her family what happened and made a statement to gardaí in February 2018.
When the man was questioned by gardaí about the incident he agreed that the girl had not been feeling well that week and he was rubbing her head and shoulders. He claimed that the sleeve of her top fell down and he went to fix it.
Judge Elma Sheahan sentenced the man to two years and nine months in prison, but suspended the final 15 months of that term on strict conditions.
She said it is beyond doubt that the teenager was deeply affected by the incident and said it represented a breach of trust with the man having played the role of father figure in her life.
'Breach of trust'
Judge Sheahan said the offence fell within the upper end of the low range for such offence, as there was no touching of her breast or penetration, but said there was a significant breach of trust and disparity in ages between the man and the victim.
She said it was the “surrounding circumstances” of the assault which was “indicative of him taking advantage of her and the situation rather than comforting her”.
The judge noted that the victim had a good understanding of this and said that the damage done by the assault was “eloquently” outlined in the victim impact statement.
The now 18-year-old had initially asked the court if she could waive her right to anonymity.
As she was a child at the time of the offence, the law states that she has to ask permission of the presiding judge to waive her right to anonymity, but following a short meeting with Judge Sheahan in her chambers the victim withdrew the application.
Nightmares and panic attacks
She read her victim impact statement to the court in which she said the accused made her “hate myself and be ashamed of my own body”.
“I rejected myself from inside out. It didn’t feel like my body,” the girl said she before she described suffering nightmares and panic attacks.
“It felt like heart attacks that felt like they would kill me. Sometimes I wish they would.”
She described having panic attacks in school and being jealous of her other classmates “because they were normal”.
“I thought when I disclosed you would go away, but you didn’t. You never left so I could never heal. Every fibre of my being wanted to kick or scream but I couldn’t.”
'You took away my innocence'
“You took away my childhood years and teenage years in the court process,” she continued, before she added that the damage he did was to her mind.
“A voice in my head that left me feeling useless. You made me hate myself so much. You took away my ability to trust anyone, you took away my ability to trust myself.”
“I still cared for you when you never cared for me. You took away my chance to be normal. You took away my innocence,” the teenager continued.
“I needed to be safe and loved and protected. You left me sad and traumatised. You left me angry. Today I give you back the shame. The biggest thing you took away from me is myself. I mourned the death of the little girl and I prayed that she would come back, but she never did.”
“You took away my ability to laugh and love of life. I will always be a victim of sexual abuse, but from today I will no longer be your victim,” the teenager concluded.
Barry White SC, defending, submitted that the offence his client had been convicted of was at the lower end of the scale and said it did not involve any form of violence or physical touching.
He said the man did not have any criminal record of substance and no offence of violence. Counsel said the man would be appealing the conviction.