The mother of a child who was raped by her uncle over a seven-year period has described how the abuse has caused a crack in her family “that no time will ever heal”.
In a victim impact statement read out in Central Criminal Court the woman said she would never get over the fact her younger brother repeatedly raped her daughter from when she was aged seven to 14.
“To my brother,” the woman's statement read, “My world shattered the day I learned the secret my baby girl had been carrying for so many years. I couldn't believe my brother could hurt his own sister's daughter, his niece...
“I had stranger danger talks with my daughter. I never thought that I would have to warn her about someone I thought I could trust. You were not a stranger. You were a member of my family.”
The 25-year-old man from the midlands, who can't be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault and seven counts of raping his niece between January 2007 and August 2014.
The court heard the girl looked up to her uncle, who was eight years older than her, and that the pair grew up together like “brother and sister”.
A local detective garda told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that the abuse began with sexual misconduct in the form of kissing and inappropriate touching when the girl was seven years old and her uncle was 15.
It quickly progressed to rape and anal rape, with incidents taking place in a relative's house in the midlands, in a treehouse in their grandparents' garden and in the girl's house when her uncle was babysitting her and her younger sister.
At one point, the abuse stopped for a couple of years when the man had a girlfriend, but it resumed when that relationship ended.
The abuse ended in August 2014 when the girl disclosed what had been happening to her. When questioned by gardaí, her uncle made full and immediate admissions, the detective said.
In her victim impact statement the victim, now aged 17, said, “I grew up with a shadow behind me. It's a shadow that grew bigger and bigger as I grew older. I had to carry it with me. The shadow took away my innocence and it took away my confidence in myself.”
She said her rapist was like a brother to her. “I trusted him. I thought he was so cool,” she said.
The girl said she felt guilty at the effect the abuse had had on her extended family. “We were a really close family and now we are broken.” She said her relationship with her grandmother has particularly suffered. “It can never be the same,” she said. “It's like a death to me.”
The court heard the man's parents – his victim's grandparents - support their son. They sat on opposite sides of the court from their daughter and granddaughter.
The man told gardaí he always felt “terrible” after each incident of abuse, the court heard. “He said there was always the guilt of forcing her into doing what she didn't want to do,” Ms McGowan said. “He said he always felt awful for days afterwards and contemplated suicide over this.”
Mary Rose Gearty SC, defending, told the court the man had received extensive therapy and counselling since the abuse came to light.
She said he “now has an understanding of the devastating impact he has had on his entire family, not just his victim”.
“He knows he is going to jail,” Ms Gearty said. “His motivation has been to make sure this doesn't happen again, for his own sake and for the sake of his extended family.”
She noted the man was a child himself when he began abusing his niece. She said he was extremely remorseful. He has no previous convictions.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy adjourned the matter for sentencing on December 16. Ms Gearty said her client wished to be taken into custody immediately to start whatever sentence was handed down.
His victim and her mother cried and embraced as he was taken into custody, as did the victim's grandparents.