abuse memoirs  | 

Brave abuse survivors campaigner Shaneda Daly speaks of horrors suffered at hands of her father

Shaneda said the courts didn't take into account the coercive control and grooming that often comes with sexual abuse
Abuse survivor Shaneda Daly

Abuse survivor Shaneda Daly

By Jamie McDowell

A brave child sexual abuse survivor who has campaigned for court reforms for those who have reported their attackers to the authorities has spoken at length about her own experiences at the hands of her father.

Shaneda Daly was raped by her father over two decades from when she was a small child. Her father also subjected her to physical abuse, neglect, child grooming and coercive control, and even moved his family to the other side of Ireland to reaffirm that control.

Harry Daly, who worked as a prison officer in Limerick prison, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2011 for sexually abusing his daughter after pleading guilty to the charges put against him.

Now, mum-of-six Shaneda has a book coming out in the new year detailing the abuse she suffered, as well as her ongoing battle with trauma after the court case ended.

Speaking on LMFM’s Late Lunch today, Shaneda, who has set up the successful Survivors Side By Side Facebook support page, spoke of the feelings she encountered after her father was jailed.

She said: “You come out of the court and you’ve had your day in court, and he’s gone to prison, and you’re kind of high at the sentencing… You’re living your life a little bit and then the bubble just bursts.

“There’s no one around you any more. When the court case is coming up there's people supporting you and all that... It’s kind of like a bride at her wedding, after the wedding it’s the comedown. It’s the same with the courts. No one ever contacts you again… Anyone that’s been there for you, any support (is gone).”

Shaneda, who campaigns for mandatory prison sentences for rapists, and has spoken previously about her experiences at the hands of her father, poignantly said the trauma of what victims like herself have gone through does not end after a conviction.

“It doesn’t really come into the (court) process, the physical abuse, the emotional abuse, mental abuse - that was torture in itself in another avenue. Being locked in rooms, not being fed as small children, growing up under his control until we left the house. He was a control freak.”

Opening up on her father’s grooming, which began when she was just a toddler, she said: “I was only two or three. It’s only since the court case that it's been a healing process…

“Through the process of doing the book a lot more stuff has come up in my life, because you’re not just focussing on the sentencing that they got with the charges, it’s everything else that went around it.

“I speak a lot about the grooming process that my dad did, and it goes hand-in-hand with the coercive behaviour. It’s the same thing, there are just different names for it. [My father] even said when I saw him in prison that there were many situations where I defended him, where I shouldn’t have as a child. I was still covering up when I was going to school with bruises and malnutrition, never ever would I say what was going on at home.

“It’s like my dad became my world, I adored him. He was the only person in the house that I liked. It was such a weird, weird thing. He was just my be all and end all. When I saw him in prison... He said that he moved me to the other side of the country to [make sure] I would never bond with relations. He made sure my mother and I never had a relationship.

She added: “At the time I was horrified by what he was saying but it’s given me great peace in my life to understand how my family relationships developed.

“It was just seeing the calculation that he done and the risks that he took… He knew 100% as a child I would never ever speak out against him.

“Never once did he threaten me, he never said ‘I’ll kill you’, or ‘I’ll do this or I’ll do that’. You just feel that before an abuser ever touches a child, the grooming process has gone on way before that and they might be touching [the victim] a little bit inappropriately to see what the reaction would be.”

Shaneda also spoke of the importance confronting her father in prison had in terms of her personal journey and healing.

“First of all I just wanted to go see him in the prison to tell him how much I hated him and that he destroyed my life. I met [a representative of Restorative Justice] in Dublin. I said I just wanted to tell him the stuff that’s inside me, I don’t have any questions for him… The worst question I could have gone in there with is, ‘why did you do this to me?’

“I don’t think they could give you an answer that would satisfy you… I was very aware of how clever and manipulative my dad is.

“It’s closure. I’ve become indifferent to him… That is such an amazing feeling, because that is the opposite of love. Hate is a very strong emotion, and it can devastate your life having that hatred inside you. I didn’t want it there any more.”

Speaking of her mindset today, Shaneda said she is beginning to enjoy her life again, even though the mental scars of the past remain, but helping others who find themselves in her past situation gives her, and other survivors, hope.

“Life is good. It’s taken quite a long while to get here… I have a passion in me to stop people feeling alone when going through the court process… Talking to other people that have been through it.”

A part of her recovery, she revealed, has been writing her memoirs, which will be released in 2022.

“It’s stuff I haven’t spoken about in public. It’s very honest, it’s very raw, it’s stuff that I had to think about, and yeah, it’ll all be in the book.

“It’s a process. You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to get better in ten years’. It doesn’t work that way, but the road does get way easier as you go along it.”

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