A woman who was raped and sexually assaulted by her then boyfriend multiple times while she slept has been awarded a total €1 million damages by a High Court jury.
Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill told the jury in evidence she “felt unsafe everywhere” as a result of the actions of Magnus Meyer Hustveit.
She was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, had been unable to continue her much loved teaching job, left Ireland for several years, and had tried at one stage to take her own life.
Becoming tearful during her evidence, she said: “There has never been a part of me that has not been profoundly impacted.”
The impact of the assaults on Ms Ní Dhomhnaill was about nine to 9½ out of 10 on a scale on severity, a psychiatrist told the jury.
Ms Ní Dhomhnaill, with an address in Dublin, took High Court civil proceedings seeking damages against Hustveit, with an address at Jens Bjelkes Gate Apartments, Oslo, Norway.
He was given a 15-month prison sentence following a finding by the Court of Appeal in 2016 that his original wholly suspended seven-year sentence was “unduly lenient”.
Hustveit had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault committed against Ms Ní Dhomhnaill between 2011 and 2012. The offences happened when both were in their twenties.
In imposing a 15-month prison term, the COA said the combination of factors including Hustveit’s co-operation, voluntary return to Ireland to be charged, previous good character and positive life he was now leading in Norway – justified and required a sentence appreciably less than would be normal in cases of multiple rapes.
In her civil proceedings, Ms Ní Dhomnhnaill, represented by Niall Buckley, sought damages for multiple acts of sexual assault on dates unknown between May 2011 to the end April 2012 at an apartment in Belvedere Place, Dublin.
She sought damages for personal injuries, loss and damage caused by the assault, battery, rape, sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional harm on his part.
Judgment was entered in default of defence and the jury was told by Mr Justice Max Barrett on Thursday their task was to assess damages only.
Having heard evidence from Ms Ní Dhomhnaill, her mother and a psychiatrist, the jury assessed damages in a total sum of €1 million, comprising €350,000 general damages, €400,000 aggravated damages and €250,000 punitive damages.
In her action, Ms Ní Dhomhnaill said she was in a sexual relationship with Hustveit from May 2011 and they had moved in together into the Belvedere Place flat around September 2011 until the relationship ended around April, 29th 2012.
She said Hustveit had repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted her while she was asleep. She said Hustveit had admitted on April 29th 2012 he had raped her and this had been going on for some period of time.
She received an email from him on May 27th, 2012 admitting he penetrated her with his penis and/or hands, touched her and kissed her while she was asleep over a prolonged period and used her body for his own gratification.
Receiving the email was “extremely shocking” and disturbing as it detained in a clinical manner how she had been repeatedly violated in her sleep by him. The “quite chilling” detail demonstrated his “absolute awareness of what he was doing”.
During the relevant period of time, she also discovered a large fist sized bruise on the inside of her upper thigh which took about a week to heal. She attempted in September 2013 to take her own life by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets prescribed for her in the aftermath of the rapes and sexual assaults.
She had attended weekly therapy sessions and a psychotherapist, had issues around food and excessive exercising and abusing laxative tablets and had at times struggled to leave her bedroom and home. All her relationships and friendships had been affected and she continues to feel frightened about trusting people, including her parents.
Unable to continue in her much-loved teaching job, she left Ireland for London where she sought to lose herself in studying psychology. She was concerned she began overachieving “to compensate” for what had happened. She continues to have disturbing nightmares and could not say how she would be in 10 years.
Her mother Josephine McDonald said she had noticed changes in her daughter over the period in question. From being independent, active and very articulate, she had become distant and withdrawn. “I could feel an anxiety about her.”
Her concerns were confirmed when her daughter told her in August 2012 she had been raped, she said. While she has achieved a lot since, she “is not back to my Niamh yet”, she said.