A former member of the Defence Forces has claimed she was sexually assaulted by a crewman while they worked on board an Irish naval vessel berthed at Naval Service headquarters.
The woman told a Cork court yesterday that, while the ship was on patrol at sea, the accused approached her in the mess area twice — once to ask her for a blow job, and on another occasion, to go to a cabin for “a quick one”.
But she claimed that on a morning in Jun 2012, while she was on deck helping to refuel the ship at Haulbowline in Co Cork at the end of the patrol, the accused slapped her backside first, before grabbing her breasts.
After the first alleged incident, she said: “I was absolutely outraged and livid. I felt absolutely helpless and degraded. I thought how dare he touch me and I told him never do it again.
“That this person thinks they can do this in broad daylight showed disregard and disrespect to me in my workplace. Saying ‘stop!’ is my only protection in the Naval Service.”
About 15 minutes later, she said the accused asked her for a lighter and as she put her hands in her pocket, she said the man put his hands on her breasts, squeezed and grabbed them and that it hurt. She said he did it a second time and laughed.
“I was livid. I felt a piece of me had died because the protection I used didn’t work. The only power I had was verbal and it was ignored,” she said.
She kicked him and pushed him away and told him never do it again, and he replied: “What’s your problem — people do this to me all the time.”
Another female crew member told the court that the accused put his hands on her upper chest area and pushed her, before doing the same to the alleged victim.
“I didn’t see anything malicious in it. I didn’t see anything wrong in it. You join the navy with lads — you expect a bit of banter,” this witness said.
She said she told the accused to fuck off, but the alleged victim said his behaviour wasn’t alright, and she said the accused approached the alleged victim later and apologised if he had caused offence. The alleged victim told her immediate superior about the alleged incident in the hope that the man would be reprimanded immediately.
Her superior told the court that she declined twice to complain to a higher-ranking officer and he then suggested she should take any complaint further up the chain of command.
The alleged victim told the court she thought carefully before lodging an official, written complaint with the ship’s captain six days later, triggering an internal investigation.
The accused said he was not contacted or interviewed during that process.
The alleged victim said when she saw two officers involved in the probe laughing at the word ‘blow job,’ she decided four days later to lodge a formal complaint with gardaí, prompting a criminal investigation.
The accused took the stand yesterday and denied any knowledge of the two alleged incidents in the mess area.
He said on that morning last June he was just having “a bit of fun, a bit of laugh with the girls” — activity he described as “horseplay” and “general banter” between crewmates.
He said there was contact in the shoulder and chest area, and he embraced them as he would any other crew member. But he denied slapping the alleged victim on the backside and grabbing her breasts.
“There was nothing malicious in what I’d done. I have no idea why she would make this complaint. As far as I’m concerned, we were all friends on this tight ship,” he said.
The case has been adjourned until Thursday.
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