Sex assault survivor says ‘rape culture’ must be addressed

Dominique Meehan says memories of attack drove her to self-harm and excess drinking

Dominique Meehan (above) has publicly campaigned on the issue of sexual assault following the jailing of her rapist Keith Hearne.  File photograph: Collins Courts

Dominique Meehan (above) has publicly campaigned on the issue of sexual assault following the jailing of her rapist Keith Hearne. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

A woman who waived her right to anonymity after she was raped at a gaming convention says there is a rape culture in Ireland which needs to be addressed.

Dominique Meehan has publicly campaigned on the issue of sexual assault following the jailing of her rapist Keith Hearne for an attack on her in the screening room of the ArcadeCon convention in Dublin on July 4th, 2015.

In an interview with RTÉ Radio on Monday, Ms Meehan described her ordeal as “the worst 20 minutes of my life”, and said she continues to live with the resultant torment every day.

Speaking of the effects of the attack, she described how one day she thought she saw Hearne at Letterkenny Shopping Centre, even though he was by then serving a 12-year sentence for the attack, and said it still caused her shock and upset two years later.

Self-harm

Ms Meehan explained how memories of the attack drove her to self-harming as well as drinking and medicating to excess, and said she would not have survived if she had not sought help from the psychiatric unit in her local hospital in Donegal.

Ms Meehan had to attend the specialised Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in Mullingar, as none was available in Dublin after she was attacked. She said it was also a struggle to find counselling and support services.

“We need to normalise counselling, we need to normalise [access to] SATUs,” she told the Seán O’Rourke Show.

“It took a lot of Google searching to find counselling, and find a SATU near me, which is why I think the services out there should be easier to find, and hopefully help more people,” she said, adding that staff in the SATUs she attended were “very compassionate, extraordinary people”.

Ms Meehan revealed that she made the decision to waive her own right to anonymity in order to publicise the name of her attacker while she was still in hospital recovering from the assault.

“I was in the hospital for three days. On the second day in the hospital, as soon as I could start thinking clearly, I went for a smoke with my Dad and said: ‘I’m not letting him away with this. He is not going to wander this Earth and maybe go to jail and maybe say he was away on holidays. There’s no way on Earth I’m letting that happen’.”

Focusing anger

She said she is now determined to focus the anger she feels into helping other victims, and also railed against what she termed the continuing rape culture in Ireland.

“When I hear a rape joke like ‘My football team Manchester got raped by Chelsea’, that sort of thing, what I hear is that you don’t care about how a rape affects a person. It’s what it comes across as, I don’t care if people don’t mean it,” she said.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: 1800 77 88 88

The locations and contact details of Sexual Assault Treatment Units across Ireland can be found at HSE.ie