Woman sexually abused by her father and uncle awarded €350,000

The father tried to minimise the abuse by saying it was “normal”, “no big deal” and he was “preparing” her for the world, the court heard. 
Woman sexually abused by her father and uncle awarded €350,000

High Court reporters

A woman who was sexually abused by her father and raped by her uncle as a child has been awarded €350,000 against them by the High Court.

The father tried to minimise the abuse by saying it was “normal”, “no big deal” and he was “preparing” her for the world, the court heard.

The uncle also tried to minimise it saying it was “canoodling” and he was going to give her "experience for the fellas in the future”.

The father was convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment, one of which was suspended, for sexual assault.  The uncle, who was convicted of rape and sexual assault, was jailed for a total of nine years.

As well as suing both men, she also sued the HSE because it allegedly failed to put in place a plan to safeguard and protect.

It also allegedly failed to remove her from the abusive situation after the abuse by the uncle was disclosed by her mother.

The case against the HSE was settled for €130,000 which means a further hearing is required as to whether the €350,000 awarded by Mr Justice Garrett Simons on Thursday should be reduced to reflect the HSE settlement.

The judge imposed reporting restrictions because she suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder and the publication of anything to identify her would cause undue stress were this medical condition to be reported.

Local community

The judge noted she previously suffered some stigma in her local community as a result of having been identified in gossip as the complainant in the successful criminal prosecutions of her father and uncle.

The uncle did not participate in the proceedings but, in a submission on behalf of his family, it acknowledged she had been abused and was entitled to compensation.

The uncle’s family also said he (uncle) only has a small farm; has “lots of outstanding bills”; and two children on disability benefit.

In 2013, the High Court restrained him from transferring his lands to his children following an application he made to the Land Registry.

The father, who is 71, at the hearing of the case before Mr Justice Simons, indicated he did not wish to contest the case.

However, he made a submission to the effect he had made an offer to pay €10,000 compensation to her and had carried out certain works for her benefit, worth between €10,000 and €12,000. He also said he was on a pension.

The judge said she suffered abuse at the hands of her father for at least eight years, if not more which she believed started when she was about seven.

Social services

The abuse included groping and sucking of her breasts; the touching of her vagina; the digital penetration of her vagina and the exposing by her father of his erect penis. It happened mainly when she was alone at home or with him at other locations.

The judge said the abuse by the uncle appears to have commenced at a much later stage when she would have been around 13.

It ceased in October 2004 after she told her mother who informed social services of the uncle's abuse, but not the abuse by the father.

While the period of the uncle's abuse was shorter it involved the more serious offence of rape, the judge said.

The judge said after she first reported the sexual abuse to her mother, she came under sustained pressure from her family to withdraw the allegations.

She gave evidence that from 2004 to 2007 she engaged in multiple acts of self-harm and suicide-motivated overdosing with some 50 hospital admissions in relation to the overdoses, the judge said.

She has suffered from eating disorders, with anorexic and bulimic features.  She also had very significant gynaecological and gastrointestinal difficulties, including polycystic ovaries and endometriosis.

To her credit, the judge said, she had been able, with certain accommodations from college authorities and with the help of an educational psychologist, to complete a third level course at university and was awarded a 2:1 honours degree. She was also able to obtain employment.

Having regard to all of the circumstances of the case, the judge assessed damages for pain and suffering to date at €275,000 with an additional sum of €75,000 for pain and suffering into the future.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

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