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serious assaults Domestic abuse victim says trial made her feel like she was reliving trauma

"I felt the whole of my insides crumbling because I had seen the knife he stabbed me with"

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Vanessa Begley

Vanessa Begley

Vanessa Begley

On Monday night, RTÉ aired a Prime Time special investigating domestic abuse in Ireland.

Vanessa Begley, who appeared on the programme ‘Domestic Abuse, A Year in Crisis’ shared her story of abuse at the hands of her former partner of 18 months Damien Fealy.

During their relationship, Vanessa was coercively controlled and in January 2019 she made a statement to Gardaí documenting five serious assaults.

After being forced to wait almost a year before the case went to court, in November 2019 Fealy pleaded not guilty.

While he did not testify during his trial, Vanessa spent over an hour on the stand giving evidence.

During her court testimony, Vanessa said that she felt like she was reliving her trauma.

"When they showed me the knife, I found it very hard to look at it. I just felt really upset and scared.”

“I felt the whole of my insides crumbling because I had seen the knife he stabbed me with."

She also said that having to see him again was “very scary.”

“It was very hard for me as a woman, to stand up, to make my statement. It is very hard because you think people aren’t going to believe you.”

Vanessa revealed that during her cross examination it was suggested to her that she was on a “revenge mission” because she had been “treated like a princess.”

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"I felt like I was the one wrong," she said.

"He didn't have to go on the stand at all. He just sat back and watched everything that was going on."

Detailing her abuse, Vanessa shared part of her victim impact statement.

"He has choked me, punched me, pinched my side... put me down constantly, which included being called tramp, slut or rhino.”

In another incident Fealy stabbed her twice in the head and banged her head against a wall

She also still has many scars from her abuse.

Pointing to her chest, she explained to the programme: "He stabbed me with a biro here.”

“So, I got a tattoo, neart go neart, which means strength to strength.”

“That was the day he hit me with the wheel-brace and stabbed me with the wire,” she said.

“He tried to choke me, and then he stabbed me in the head twice.”

"And the Stanley knife here [a cut on her chin] was another incident. Oh, and the cigarette burn as well, but you can't really see it."

Damien was found guilty at trial and was given a four year sentence with the final 18 months suspended.

During his relationship with Vanessa, Damien Fealy was already facing charges for assaulting a previous partner.

Fealy, 32, appeared on RTE’s Operation Transformation in 2017, and after his ex saw him on TV, she decided to make a statement to Gardaí.

She later testified against him at trial about seven separate assaults, one of which lasted nine hours.

He was found guilty and sentenced to four years and eight months for assault, false imprisonment and threats to kill.

The documentary revealed that families are turned away from refuges everyday as there is not enough room.

Nine counties in Ireland do not have refuges at all.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that work is underway to ensure that does not continue.

Following an audit she has also promised to deliver further refuge spaces within a matter of weeks.

"We've listened to, and I've listened to, and my colleagues have listened to the frontline workers, the community and voluntary sector, those who deliver these services," she said.

"Based on that audit, based on that accommodation review, we're bringing together the delivery of policy and services."

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Women's Aid on 1800 341 900.

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