Victim Impact Statement
July 1, 2011
[This victim's impact statement originally appeared in Ex-priest’s apology for ‘torture’ of sex abuse, by Niamh O’Donoghue, Irish Examiner, July 2, 2011. The article reports that Fr Paul McGennis pleaded guilty to eight sample counts of indecent assault on the victim at two locations in the city of Dublin between June 1980 and May 1984.
McGennis began his abuse of the girl when she was 11 years old and continued the fortnightly assaults for four years.]
The following is an edited version of the victim impact statement given by the woman indecently assaulted by former priest Paul McGennis.
I’m doing this impact statement to try, as best I can, to give you some idea of the terrible effects of the years of abuse I suffered at the hands of that man.
The abuse started when I was about 11 years old and went on for years. Right through my late childhood and into my teens, I had to carry the burden of being abused and being afraid to mention it.
From the time the abuse started, I got steadily worse in school. I became more and more disruptive in class. After a while the teachers started to give up on me.
Because of this, I dropped out of school very early and by doing that cut down my chances of getting good jobs.
At the same time, I felt that I grew away from my friends because I had this awful secret that I had to keep hidden. I couldn’t understand or join in when they talked about boyfriends and kissing and cuddling and enjoying it.
At this time, I really blamed my mother for not realising what was happening and putting a stop to it. This resentment lasted for years and still hasn’t completely gone.
Like most young girls, I expected to get married and have children when I grew up. Most of my friends have done this, but when I was being abused this didn’t seem possible for me anymore. This had such an effect on me that I tried to commit suicide in my teens. My behaviour at that time was out of control.
Like most teenagers I started going out with boys, but because of the abuse I thought all boys and men were only after one thing — sex. I had a series of short-term relationships.
After years of boring, repetitive jobs, I realised that I wanted more and was capable of more. With help, I applied for, and got, a job as carer in a major hospital.
Then I received a major shock. I saw in the newspaper that he was charged and sent to jail for sexual abuse. It all came flooding back to me. I found that, in work, I couldn’t deal with anything that was in any way intimate with patients. I became extremely stressed, developed health problems and, after some time, attempted suicide again.
I have been lucky enough to have found a husband who is understanding and supportive. Nevertheless, I worry all the time about how our marriage can last. I find that I’m not capable of any kind of intimacy with my husband, even though I really love him. Any time we try to be intimate, I keep remembering my abuser’s face over me and we have to stop.
Thoughts of my abuse come into my head every day. I’m moody, I get snappy with people, even those very close to me, and I’m almost at the point of believing that I will never have a “normal” life.
He stole my innocence, my childhood, my memories, my chance of an education and prospects for the future. His abuse puts my marriage at risk daily and denies me the chance of children. While I continue to attend counselling, I still question whether life is worth living.
Whatever sentence is imposed on that man, he should realise that he has imposed a sentence on me that I will continue to serve until the day I die.