'You are not to blame': Abused daughter calls on victims to stand tall as father jailed for 18 years

'You are not to blame': Abused daughter calls on victims to stand tall as father jailed for 18 years
Sophia Murphy outside court today after her father John Murphy was jailed for 18 years for the the rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of her at locations in Co Galway and Co Mayo on dates between 1988 and 2001. Picture: Courtpix

By Fiona Ferguson

The woman at the centre of a horrific sexual abuse case which saw her being abused by her own father form the age of three has encouraged other people in her situation to come forward.

Ms Sophia Murphy, now aged 33, who read her victim impact statement in court and waived her right to anonymity so her father could be named, indicated that she wished to go public with her case to encourage other people in her situation to come forward.

“Abusers control, manipulate you and make you feel like you are the one with the problem. Stand tall speak out and take back your life, you are not to blame.

"Silence protects the abuser and imprisons the victim. Take back your life, break the silence. You are not a victim for sharing your story - you are a survivor,” she said.

Ms Murphy was speaking after her father, a former member of the Irish Defence Forces, was jailed for 18 years for the “horrendous” sexual abuse of his daughter throughout her childhood from the age of three.

John Murphy (61), formerly of Nephin View Manor, Foxford, Co Mayo, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of his eldest daughter, Ms Sophia Murphy, at locations in Co Galway and Co Mayo on dates between 1988 and 2001.

He also pleaded guilty to a final incident of sexual assault of Ms Murphy in 2010.

Reading her victim impact statement in court she said she wanted her statement to be perfect and had written it a thousand times in her head.

“It's the only chance I’m ever going to get to tell you how much you destroyed my life, for your own sick pleasure. You put your horrible hands all over me. I was never my own person; you touched me whenever and wherever you wanted.”

She described the pervasive nature of the abuse and the effect it had on her.

“There is not a day in my life I don’t remember you abusing me. You abused me sexually, emotionally and physically. You never left me alone,” said Ms Murphy.

“It was just never ending, day after day, night after night.”

She outlined how she self-harmed from the age of nine or ten – hitting herself off objects to break her wrists and leg, tearing ligaments and spraining her ankle.

“I took a couple of overdoses but luckily for me I didn’t succeed, because you didn’t deserve my life but I did.”

“I was drinking alcohol and taking drugs at the age of 12, maybe younger. Anything to take the pain away caused by you. I would stay out at night not wanting to go home.”

John Murphy. Photo: RTÉ News
John Murphy. Photo: RTÉ News

She said the abuse impacted her education and made her feel worthless. She suffered with anxiety, paranoia, depression, insomnia and an eating disorder. She described how she was made out to be a liar when she initially reported the abuse and was bullied, as well as losing friends.

“When I finally found the courage in me again and had to tell the truth I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was,” she said. “I felt every emotion I felt as a child, but worse, as I also felt sorry for that child.”

“When I was told you abused my sisters, it broke my heart. I was so angry, so frustrated. I felt so guilty. I believed you. I trusted you when you told me you would never do it again.”

She outlined how she is now doing well and feeling stronger. “My life has got so much better since I started being able to talk and having the security of the amazing people I have in my life.”

She thanked her daughter describing her as "an amazing young woman who is also my best friend," as well as "my two amazing, courageous sisters and amazing friends who have always been there."

Ms Murphy also thanked Gda Thomasina McHale for her time and effort and whom she said "made this horrible journey as easy and bearable as possible".

"I am no longer your victim," she told her father. "I have taken back my life. I will never get my past back, but I have my future. You don’t have a future. You are now the one with no independence, no friends, no family, no voice and it’s my voice that made that possible."

"You have damaged and destroyed so many lives. I get relief knowing you can never harm anyone else. You have left me with scars and wounds that will never be healed but I am no longer your victim. I am a survivor."

John Murphy is currently serving an eight-year sentence in Arbour Hill prison for sexual abuse involving Ms Murphy's two younger sisters, imposed last February at Castlebar Circuit Court.

Victim impact statement had been "harrowing and exceptional"

Reacting to the verdict Mr Justice Michael White noted the "length, intensity and depravity of the sexual abuse" and said the garda evidence and Ms Murphy's victim impact statement had been "harrowing and exceptional".

He said Ms Murphy had shown "remarkable lucidity" in her victim impact statement and was a "very dignified person" who had overcome the abuse to become a loving mother and partner and take up fulfilling employment.

In outlining the aggravating factors, Mr Justice White took into account the impact of the abuse on Ms Murphy and the particularly serious nature of the abuse, perpetrated over a period of time.

He said the breach of trust from a man who should have been protecting his daughter was a "very grave wrong". He said Ms Murphy had great love and affection for her father but hated what he was doing.

Mr Justice White said that taking into account the depth, length and nature of this abuse, the headline sentence - before taking into account the mitigating factors - had to be life imprisonment.

The judge said in his view, Murphy's remorse was genuine and he had acknowledged the great hurt he had caused his daughter. He noted Murphy's guilty pleas and his serious health problems.

Mr Justice White imposed consecutive sentences totalling 18 years, which were backdated to when Murphy went into custody in December 2017.

'You are not to blame': Abused daughter calls on victims to stand tall as father jailed for 18 years

Garda Thomasina McHale told Patrick Reynolds BL, prosecuting, that she received a request in May 2015 to call to Ms Murphy's home, where she reported that she had been extensively sexually abused by her father as a child. A further incident was alleged to have taken place when she was 25 years old, in 2010.

Ms Murphy later gave a 110-page written statement to gardaí outlining the details of the abuse, which occurred initially at family homes in Co Galway, as well as later in Co Mayo. She was also sexually abused in the family car while on the way to visit her grandmother.

Gda McHale outlined to the court that the abuse involved licking and touching of the child's genitals, digital penetration of her vagina and anus and the use of a vibrator. Murphy also admitted raping his daughter when interviewed by gardaí.

Ms Murphy outlined to gardaí that throughout her childhood, there had been constant grabbing and touching. Her father would grab her bum or breasts numerous times over the course of 24 hours.

Ms Murphy told gardaí she could not explain how often the sexual abuse happened, she said it was horrendous and happened at every opportunity. She said that her father had all the control.

Murphy was arrested in October 2016 and interviewed by gardaí. He admitted sexually abusing his daughter two or three times per week and raping her when she was about 13 or 14 years old.

Murphy has 73 previous convictions for the sexual assault of four victims. He received an eight-year sentence in February for sexual abuse involving Ms Murphy's two younger sisters.

Murphy, who worked in the defence forces and security, was aged between 31 and 44 years old during the time he abused his young daughter.

Diarmuid Connolly BL, defending, asked the court to take into account Murphy's co-operation with gardaí and the value of his early guilty plea in this case. He said he had been given very definite instructions by his client to apologise to Ms Murphy.

He said a probation report from February 2016 put Murphy at low risk of re-offending. He said his client had not taken up opportunities he had to avail of bail, proving his contrition and remorse.

He asked the court to take into account the publicity which the case would attract. He said his client was not an old man but was a sick man, who had also suffered extensive psychiatric issues.

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