Kerry woman sexually assaulted by her brother-in-law over 40 years

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

A Kerry woman who was sexually assaulted by her brother-in-law over 40 years ago has said that she did not complain about what happened at the time because she “was taught not to question my elders”.

Reading her own victim impact statement to the court, the woman said that her reporting of the abuse at the hands of a respected family had a “devastating impact” on her family. “Some are supportive, but the majority find it hard to deal with” and that she consequently “felt isolated and blamed”.

The 74-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the now 53-year-old woman, pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 11 counts of indecent assault on various dates between January 1, 1971 and December 31, 1974. 

The man was found guilty by a jury of eight men and four women after a four-day trial in front of Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan. The jury were in disagreement on the final three counts. The man will be sentenced on May 8 next.

Prosecuting Counsel Paul Burns SC told the court that the abuse began when the woman was 10 years of age and mainly occurred at the man’s house in Kerry, where the victim would often stay the night when visiting her older sister.

The court heard that there was also one incident of abuse at another relative’s house, when the woman was alone and the man turned up at the front door uninvited.

The woman told her family of the abuse in 1986, but did not report it to gardaí until 2007. When the man was taken into custody and questioned in January 2008, he told gardai that the allegations were ‘all lies’ and he ‘never touched a child in his life’.

The woman told the court that her sister, who was married to the accused, was like a ‘surrogate mother’ to her due to a 14 year age gap. She visited her sister at least once a month and often slept over – sharing a room at the back of the house with two of her sister’s daughters, who she was close in age to.

The woman told the court how the man used to come into the room when the other two children were asleep and start pulling her bed sheets off her. When she tried to push him off and protested, he would tell her ‘Shush you’ll wake the children’.

She told the court that man abused her between 30 and 40 times, but that it became less frequent in 1974 after which it eventually stopped.

She told the court how he would put his fingers inside her and use his tongue to penetrate her. ‘I knew it was wrong. He hurt me, he always hurt me,’ she said.

She said the abuse always followed a pattern, lasted about ten minutes and would stop when the man heard a noise in the house and thought someone else was awake.

She said that on one occasion the man’s baby son was sleeping in a cot in the same room, while he abused her.

In her victim impact statement the woman said that she “suffered feelings of depression and contemplated taking my own life. I have been plagued with flashbacks, leading to anxiety and feelings of vulnerability.”

Defence Counsel Dominic McGinn SC asked for leniency in sentencing due to the man’s mature years.

He also pointed out that the man was a father of five and has no previous convictions, and that his loss of standing in his community would be a serious punishment.