How we can help victims of crime

 

Sir, – I’m writing this in response to the recent law that was passed so that victims of a crime committed against them have more information and knowledge of how their case is advancing (the Criminal Justice [Victims of Crime] Act).

As a victim myself of child sexual abuse and bringing my father to court in 2011, this is a step in the right direction. But it is still far from what is needed in this country.

When the DPP sent back directions for my father to be prosecuted it was only then that I realised I had not much to do with the whole court process, that in fact, to the State, I was only a witness. I sat in that court for the two days not understanding a lot of the legal talk and the only voice I had was my victim impact statement.

The main reason I’m writing this is because of the uproar in this country in the past week over the leniency in the sentencing of Tom Humphries. Once again headlines filled with the injustice in this country towards the victim.

I have been running a Facebook page called Survivors Side by Side over the past year and a half. It is unique, in a way, as I have victims, family and friends on it, as abuse itself creates a ripple effect which tears through families. In the past week I’ve had over 70 new members.

I talk very openly about my father abusing me all my childhood. I had 227 sample charges against him. In one five year period alone there was not one day when I was not abused at least once a day.

I’m writing this letter to beg the people of Ireland to please try to change our legal system. There needs to be a standard of care to do with reporting a crime. I have spoken to victims where their statements were never sent to the DPP. Statements that have sat on desks for 16 months. No contact after they have made their statements. No information given at all.

Someone needs to be held accountable for all this unjust treatment of victims who were brave enough to come forward to begin with.

The sentences themselves need to be reviewed also. The charge of rape in Ireland is meant to carry a sentence of life in prison yet this is never handed down in the courts. My father received 15 years. I had 100 sample charges of rape alone. He received five years off for the guilty plea. All in all he will serve seven and a half years in prison. Where is the justice in all that?

Children are meant to have a childhood . . . it’s what moulds us into adults. Now imagine not having a childhood. Never being able to go to sleep soundly in your bed for fear of your father waking you so he could molest or rape you. The fear of a little child feeling the weight of a large man on top of them so heavy they can hardly breathe. Imagine that child going to school and being in class trying to act normal but in agony from the strain put on their little bones.

Their precious little minds having all these confusing and devastating thoughts going though it.

I was 10 the first time I thought about throwing myself down the stairs. My only fear was I wouldn’t kill myself. The fear I’d be in a cast and even more accessible to my father. I never had a day’s peace as my father would open the bathroom door from the outside, would molest me while my siblings were in the next room or rape me upstairs while the rest of my family where downstairs watching telly.

If a child didn’t have a normal enough childhood how can they know how to be an adult? It’s horrific. It’s totally inhumane.

People need to wake up, especially in this country, to the amount of victims of sexual childhood abuse. It’s everywhere.

And then the final insult . . . the court process where a man can groom a child and defile them and get two and a half years. It’s a slap in the face . . . It totally takes the saying “suffer little children” to a new level.

I have asked the Minister for Justice for a sit-down meeting to discuss all these issues from a victim’s point of view but have had no luck.

How are the people running this country going to make a difference unless they listen to the victims? It’s now we need a change for all the children who have missed out on our childhoods. It’s now we desperately need change. – Yours, etc,

SHANEDA DALY,

Co Clare.