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'Constant trauma' Mum assaulted by former Fair City actor considered jumping out window during attack

"He pulled me back from the window by the hair and dragged me, and tried to strangle me for what felt like an eternity and I could see the room closing in"

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Sarah Behan was assaulted by her then partner. Despite his guilty plea, there was 14 court hearings over two and a half years, with two further appeal hearings

Sarah Behan was assaulted by her then partner. Despite his guilty plea, there was 14 court hearings over two and a half years, with two further appeal hearings

Sarah Behan was assaulted by her then partner. Despite his guilty plea, there was 14 court hearings over two and a half years, with two further appeal hearings

A young mother who was assaulted by a former Fair City actor has spoken of the trauma of the 16 court hearings relating to the violent beating despite her attacker's guilty plea

In a new RTE Investigates documentary, Sarah Behan speaks out about her terrifying ordeal at the hands of her then-boyfriend, Patrick Fitzpatrick, who was known for playing the role of Zumo Bishop in Fair City.

With a fourfold increase in emergency calls from domestic abuse survivors over the past year, the programme filmed in several refuges across the country as the services reached crisis point during the time.

From coercive control, repeated patterns of domestic violence, femicide, and the traumatic journey through the justice system, the documentary reveals the human stories behind the statistics.

In the case of Sarah Behan, she and her family had to face her attacker on multiple occasions over two and a half years.

“It was trauma relived over and over, and over again. It was constant, that I could not put it to rest, I could not move on”, said Sarah.

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Sarah Behan

Sarah Behan

Sarah Behan

In RTE Investigates, she describes how she contemplated jumping out a window to escape the attack on September 18th, 2016, which went on for two hours.

She said: “I got beaten badly. He pulled me back from the window by the hair and dragged me, and tried to strangle me for what felt like an eternity and I could see the room closing in.

“That was the window that I was contemplating jumping out, possibly breaking my two legs and pelvis. I wasn’t sure how I would do it, I was just thinking survival mode, flight or fight.

“A choice, will I just jump … then I was pulled back.”

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 Sarah shows the damage to her home from the abuse.

Sarah shows the damage to her home from the abuse.

Sarah shows the damage to her home from the abuse.

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She said she had been completely seduced by the charisma of the Dublin actor when they first met.

“I thought he was the best thing since sliced bread, there was nobody like him.

“I had never been with anyone like him. He was obviously a fantastic actor, but he acted in real life as well.

“It started with romancing and love bombing, treating me like a princess, and then it was like a switch.

“He was upfront and told me he had abused women before in past relationships. But of course, I thought I could fix him.

“And then it got worse, worse and worse. It was regular, all I did was curl up into a ball, I didn’t have any fight left in me. He’d broken me down so much; I had no fight left.”

Her mother, Antoinette Behan, speaks to the programme about the devastation of seeing the medical report during one of the court dates.

She said: “The lowest point, when during the hearing, the judge looked at the medical report, and on the medical report it had that she clumps of hair missing, and bruises on her face, and jaws."

She also spoke of the distress of attending hearing after hearing in the case. The programme revealed that Patrick Fitzpatrick, who pleaded guilty to the assault charge, was remanded before the courts 14 times, followed by a further two appeal hearings.

“It was just put off put off, put off, held back, and pushed back, for two years, repeatedly, for two years four months to be precise. We were told that their defence was not ready, and that is why the cases were pushed back", said Antoinette Behan.

The prosecution of Patrick Fitzpatrick was finally resolved in January 2019, but Sarah was taken aback by the leniency of the sentence.

“I thought he would go away for a year or two at least, for all the things he has done but he got one month that was it, a suspended sentence then.”

RTE Investigates detailed how Patrick Fitzpatrick ended up serving two days in prison for the assault after an appeal on the severity of the sentence meant most of it was suspended.

"I feel let down by the system really", said Sarah Behan.

Her mother said the psychological impacts are lifelong.

"She is a different girl to what she was before.”

RTE Investigates is set to shine the light on the crisis in Ireland in relation to domestic abuse sufferers.

Over the last 12 months, RTE cameras filmed in several refuges where staff describe their daily struggle to keep sufferers safe, because a shortage in refuge places means they are forced to live with their abusers.

Last year, the programme says the number of people that contacted the domestic violence support services increased by 40pc from the previous year, in some cases as a direct result of Covid-19 restrictions.

“We have had women ringing in the middle of the night, whispering at the end of the phone. We are getting four times the amount of calls than we were getting pre-Covid”, said a staff member in one Kerry refuge.

Watch RTÉ Investigates - Domestic Abuse, A Year Of Crisis this Monday at 9.35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player

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