panic attacks | 

Woman who was raped as child speaks out about long-term trauma as abuser jailed

‘He got 10 years. But when he did that to me, I got a life sentence’
Thomas Sheehy (62) was sentenced to a decade in prison after pleading guilty to raping the woman when she was a child

Thomas Sheehy (62) was sentenced to a decade in prison after pleading guilty to raping the woman when she was a child

Shane Phelan

A woman who was raped as a child has spoken about the long-lasting impact of her ordeal, which left her suffering panic attacks and affected her career.

She told the Irish Independent she was still suffering from the psychological effects of her abuse at the hands of Thomas Sheehy (62).

The council worker, from Woodgrove, Moyvane, Co Kerry, was sentenced to a decade in prison after pleading guilty to raping the woman several years ago.

As well as raping his victim, Sheehy also beat her with a leather belt, the Central ­Criminal Court heard.

“He got away lightly,” Sheehy’s victim said. “He got 10 years. But when he did that to me, I got a life sentence.”

The woman kept her ordeal secret for many years, feeling unable to confide in anyone.

She said memories of what happened would come into her head from time to time and she would get upset, particularly around Christmas time.

Matters started to come to a head a few years ago when Sheehy attended the funeral of one of her relatives and joined the queue of people who were there to sympathise.

“He wanted me to shake hands with him and I wouldn’t shake hands with him,” she said. After Sheehy did the same thing at a subsequent funeral, the woman said she began to suffer from very bad panic attacks.

It affected her career, as she was in and out of hospital for treatment and was unable to work.

She said that during counselling, she was told something traumatic must have happened to her when she was younger.

“They said until such time as you tell somebody, these panic attacks are not going to be relieved,” she said.

Eventually, she confided in family members and made a complaint to gardaí.

Although Sheehy admitted his crimes, she said her trauma was prolonged as he only indicated he would be entering a guilty plea in the days before his trial was due to start. “I had to prepare myself for a full trial,” she said.

The woman paid tribute to the support she had received during counselling, saying it had helped her to cope.


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