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Inspired others Brave survivor is flooded with support after opening up about her abusive uncle


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Abuse Victim Winnie McDonagh

Abuse Victim Winnie McDonagh

Abuse Victim Winnie McDonagh

A BRAVE young woman who last week went public in the Sunday World about her horror abuse ordeal at the hands of her uncle has been inundated with messages of support ever since.

Courageous Winnie McDonagh (23) endured six years of threats and abuse - after going to gardaí and reporting vile Patrick (Podge) Cawley for raping and sexually abusing her over a four-year-period.

In her interview with the Sunday World last week, Winnie, who was placed with Cawley as a four-year-old child after her own mother died, reveals how:

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Winnie and her abuser Patrick Cawley

Winnie and her abuser Patrick Cawley

Winnie and her abuser Patrick Cawley

- She thought of Cawley as her 'daddy' - until, at the age of 14, he began raping her two to three times a week;

- The attacks happened in fields, in graveyards around Drogheda and on one occasion in a hotel;

- The beast branded Winnie a 'liar' after she came forward - sparking six years of threats against her;

- And she was forced to flee the Republic with her children over fears her uncle's supporters would attack her.

Speaking yesterday, the incredibly brave mum of three said she couldn't have been happier about going public after receiving overwhelming support from both the settled and Travelling community.

"My story has been shared so much on the internet, I honestly never expected that," she said.

"I have received so many messages of support and even messages from other victims of abuse saying my story has inspired them to go and get justice now.

"That's all I wanted when I spoke out … for other people to know it is possible to get justice.

"I've had messages from complete strangers in women's groups telling me if I ever need to talk they are there for me. I don't think there has been one negative comment."

In her heart-breaking interview last week, Winnie told how after her mum died when she was four years old she and her sisters were sent to live with Podge Cawley and his wife.

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She grew up considering the pair as her parents until Podge began abusing her at the age of 14.

"I was 14 going on 15 when he started abusing me," Winnie said.

"I had finished primary school and we weren't allowed go to secondary school. He would just carry me off in the car the whole time with him.

"He'd always wait until my aunt was gone and then he'd bring me to fields, graveyards and all places like that.

"He did it in a hotel in Ashbourne when I was about 14. But it was mostly in and around Drogheda.

"It happened probably two or three times every week. And it went on for years... until I was 18 … and it only stopped then because I left the house when I was 18.

"He destroyed my whole life.

Speaking of her long battle to get justice for the abuse, Winnie continued: "It took six years to get this to court.

"And honestly I didn't think I would make it to where I am today.

"There were lots of threats on Facebook and stuff, against me, against my aunt and against my uncle.

"One day I got my three children and I left and came here to get away from it all.

"Still to this day, they (his supporters) are up on their phones threatening that they are going to do this and are going to do that.

"They threatened everyone … threatened my uncle, threatened my aunty, called me names saying it was my own fault. I had to leave Dublin … I was terrified I'd be on my own when I'd come in front of one of them."

Sentencing Cawley to six years in prison, after he pleaded guilty to two counts of defilement of a child, Judge Ms Justice Tara Burns described the offences as being of the most serious nature that come before the court.

She said Cawley was "effectively acting as Winnie's parent", that Ms McDonagh did not go to secondary school and had no access to people who might have helped her.

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