Woman ‘forever scarred’ after sexual assault aged 12 by mother’s partner

Waterford resident Dean Hurley (51) jailed for three years over abuse

A young woman who was sexually assaulted by her mother’s partner as a 12-year-old has started training as a police officer in England to help other abused children.

The now 20-year-old has given permission for her abuser Dean Hurley (51) to be identified in the reporting of his sentence hearing, but has asked that she not be named.

She disclosed the abuse a year after it occurred when she understood the significance of what happened after she was taught about sexual abuse in school. She then left the family home and has been living with her father in England since.

On Monday Hurley, who was living in hostel accommodation in Waterford city, was jailed for three years after a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court convicted him following a three-day trial last October.

He had pleaded not guilty to sexual assault of the girl at the home he shared with her mother in Co Wicklow on a date between October 1st, 2013 and October 30th 2013. Hurley still maintains his innocence.

The woman told the jury during the trial that she was alone in the sitting room of her home with Hurley one evening while her mother and younger sister were out shopping. She sat beside him on the couch and asked him for a foot massage before Hurley moved his hand up her leg and rubbed her vagina.

The girl got up and left after saying she had homework to do. She was upset and Hurley followed her into her room and asked her if he had touched her private parts.

He had used a particular turn of phrase for the word vagina and the woman said in her victim impact statement that she continues to hear this phrase in her head “like a broken record”.

She disclosed the abuse the following year to two school friends after she had a class about sexual abuse and realised what had happened her. She then reported it to the school chaplain who contacted social services.

Detective Garda David Smith told Aideen Collard BL, prosecuting, that when the allegations came to light, the then 13-year-old left the family home and stayed with her grandfather until arrangements were made for her to go and live with her father in England.

Ms Collard read the woman's victim impact statement into the record in which she outlined how the words Hurley used for the word vagina "play like a broken record in my head".

She said after she disclosed the abuse to her family, Hurley denied the allegations and came into her room and shouted at her, pushing her across the room.

The woman said she was then brought to her grandfather’s house with her “belongings dumped in the middle of the street”. She said prior to this she had very little contact with her father’s family. She later moved to England as a 14-year-old to live with her father and has lived there since.

She described how she lost contact with her younger sister and spoke of how the abuse impacted her mental health so badly that she attempted suicide.

She began missing school because she “didn’t care about anything else” and abused substances “to escape my reality”. She could “go missing for days” and “didn’t care for my safety”. She described suffering with debilitating anxiety.

The woman said in 2018 she “started afresh”, changed her group of friends, started a relationship and applied for a job with the Metropolitan Police. She said it is her hope that in her work she may be able to help other children who have suffered sexual abuse.

Kathleen Leader SC, defending, handed in a report from the Probation Service which concluded that her client was at a low risk of re-offending.

She said he is currently living in rented accommodation in Waterford city having recently lived in a hostel in the city. She said he has worked most of his life, often in the construction industry.

Ms Leader asked the court to accept that Hurley led "otherwise a blameless life" that it was a once off incident and "minor in terms of sexual offending".

Judge Pauline Codd said Hurley had "been in a position of trust" at the time of the offence and noted the significant impact it had on the complainant. She said her life spiralled out of control and she experienced suicidal thoughts from a young age.

“It bears testimony to the fact that sexual offences of a young person, even if it is one incident, can cause significant harm,” Judge Codd said.

She said the offence represented “an exploitation of the innocence of a young girl who at the time didn’t understand the impact of what happened”.

Judge Codd said she had taken into account the fact that Hurley had no previous convictions and had otherwise led “a pro-social life” but added that he has not expressed remorse as he does not accept the verdict of the jury.

She sentenced Hurley to three and half years in prison but suspended the final six months on strict conditions, including the he engage with a sexual offender treatment programme and engage with the Probation Service. Hurley has been registered as a sex offender.

The woman said she has been attending counselling but she continues to have recurring dreams about being molested and has an irrational fear that when she is walking at night she could be molested.

She suffers flashbacks and will “forever be scarred”. She feels like she has been on a path of “self-destruction” since she disclosed the abuse.

The woman said the jury’s verdict made her feel that she had been “finally listened to and that strangers believed me”.

“I live with the fact that I was sexually abused for the rest of my life, but I am a fighter and this will empower me,” the woman concluded her statement.