Women who discover their partner has carried out a sexual offence describe entering a world “fraught with chaos, fear, and isolation”, a world in which they live daily life on a knife-edge and are often stigmatised despite their own innocence, a study has found.
The research is among the presentations at the Psychological Society of Ireland annual conference in Kilkenny, where campaigners Vicky Phelan and Catherine Corless will be honoured tonight for their contribution to society.
The paper, The Experiences of Women Whose Partner Perpetrated a Sexual Offence: Discovery and Aftermath, will be presented today by Eileen Conmy, a Trinity College Dublin student with a doctorate in counselling psychology.
It describes how the women experienced a “sudden and drastic change to their lives,” following an “inconceivable discovery” which they had to grapple with in isolation.
Barbara Hannigan, professor of counselling psychology at TCD, said the rationale for Ms Conmy’s study came from her placement at Patrick Randall’s Forensic Psychology Service “where she encountered these women with devastated lives, characterised by shame and stigma from the most heinous of crimes of their life partners and they didn’t even know this was a feature in their lives”.
Six of the eight women who took part only learned of their husband’s sexual crimes as a result of their homes being raided by the authorities.
Only one woman immediately ended her marriage. Another woman decided to have a child with her husband. However, he has never been allowed spend time alone with his two-year-old daughter.