The man Kelly Kemmy should have been able to trust most in the world abused his position of power in the worst way possible
For seven years, from age 11 until she reached adulthood at 18, the man she should have been able to trust most in the world instead abused his position of power in the worst way possible.
He raped his foster daughter around 1,000 times over seven years. He attacked her up to four times a week in night-time visits to her bedroom, where she was paralysed with fear.
Stephen Murray also blackmailed her to keep his attacks secret, by threatening her it would “break up” the family, who lived in Blessington, Co Wicklow.
On many occasions Kelly begged him to stop the abuse, at an age when she didn’t even have the words to articulate what was happening to her. She just knew it was wrong.
“The abuse, it was just horror. I don’t know how I got through it all those years. I just put it to the back of mind and pretended it wasn’t going on. It was a blur, I pretended it wasn’t happening to me,” she told the
“He showed favouritism to me over my younger brother and sister, that’s how he acted. He gave us the best of life, outwardly, in terms of material things. We didn’t want for anything. But you can’t buy love.”
The 56-year-old was jailed on Friday for 11 years for the sustained rape and sexual assault of his eldest foster child. With remission, he will be out of jail in just over nine years.
Murray had stopped raping his foster-daughter when she was 18 after she began a relationship with a boyfriend. But when the couple split when she was 21, her foster father texted her saying, ‘Can we go again?’.
The text, sent drunkenly by Murray while they were both in the house, made Kelly’s blood run cold. It also gave her a piece of evidence to present to gardaí.
“When I got the text I thought, ‘I have him.’ If I didn’t get that text, I’m not sure I would have ever come forward.
"The abuse had stopped three years earlier. But getting that text was the turning point for me. Three years had passed, I thought it was over. But he was trying to start it again.
"But I was older. I decided I was going to go to the gardaí. But first, I spoke to my younger brother and sister. They were shocked and felt guilty that they didn’t know. I was so relieved to find out he hadn’t been doing it to them too.
"I’m so happy he never touched them, but at the same time I wondered, ‘Why just me?’ I was the quiet one. Maybe he thought I would never say anything.”
Kelly was just five years old when Murray and his wife, whom gardaí are satisfied knew nothing of the sexual abuse, fostered her and her younger siblings. He was her father figure.
He was the first man who ever told Kelly he loved her, she explained, before using her vulnerable position as a child in his care to perpetrate sustained sexual attacks.
Making the decision to report her foster father was not an easy one, she explains. But Kelly did so in July 2019, walking into Naas garda station and giving a statement to Garda Detective Laura Kavanagh.
She still felt as though she was a child, who would not be believed. The young woman was also still carrying feeling of guilt and shame over the abuse.
“It was a very difficult decision to go to the gardaí. It was daunting. I had to re-live it all. It had gone on for so many years, I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”
But gardaí did believe her. An immediate investigation was launched and Kelly and her younger brother and sister were removed from Murray’s home that evening.
“I didn’t want to disrupt life for my younger brother and sister, and that’s what he had always threatened me with too — that if I told, it would split up the family. I did have a real sense of protection towards my brother and sister.”
Because she concealed the abuse for so long as a child, having to finally discuss it with investigators led to an outpouring of repressed emotions.
“When I was 11, I didn’t even know what was happening to me. I just remember shock, confusion and not knowing what was going on. I was so frightened. But I thought it was normal.
"Then I got a bit older and we started doing sex education in school and I realised it wasn’t normal. But I still didn’t know what to do about it. So I just hid it and didn’t tell anyone.”
Speaking on Friday after her foster father was jailed, Kelly said she was “delighted” by the jail sentence. “Right now, I just feel overwhelmed. I don’t think I’ve fully processed today yet. But I do feel relief and a weight lifted from my shoulders. I can sleep now, knowing that he’s locked away.”
Kelly gave birth to a baby girl three months ago and lives happily with her partner. She has undertaken a degree in social care and is determined to move on with her life. She chose to waive her right to anonymity to send a message to others who have been abused that they have nothing to be ashamed of.
“I’ve taken back the power he had over me. Of course I have anger towards him. But the most important thing to me is that this does not define me.
"I hope I can inspire other people who have been through something similar to come forward. No-one who has been abused should feel shame or guilt. This has given me freedom. In a way, what he has done to me has made me stronger.
"The only person to feel shame or guilt should be him.”
It has been less than three years since Kelly first reported her foster father to gardaí, but “it is a lifetime ago, it feels like about 10 years ago”. The young mother is full of praise for how her case was handled by the lead investigators, Det Kavanagh and Det Sgt Dermot Tracey.
She has had no contact with Murray since she went to gardaí. After being arrested, questioned and charged, he eventually pleaded guilty, meaning the 24-year-old did not have to go through a difficult trial process, giving evidence and being subjected to cross-examination.
She has only seen her abuser a couple of times, in the court setting, since reporting him to gardaí.
If she wanted to speak to Murray, would she have anything to say?
“No, I don’t think so. Maybe I’d tell him that he hasn’t destroyed me. This is only the start for me. It feels like the start of my life. I won’t let this define me.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please contact the Rape Crisis Centre on freephone 1800 77 88 88