A little girl was repeatedly sexually abused by a family friend who groomed her for years and she kept the secret for more than 30 years until she could no longer bear it, a court was told as the culprit was jailed yesterday.
Her 57-year-old assailant, Seamus Buckley of Ballyshonin, Berrings, Co Cork, was jailed for one year yesterday. He pleaded guilty to 26 counts of indecently assaulting her in the early 1980s from when she was aged six to 12.
Detective Garda Maurice Leahy investigated the case following a complaint by the victim in November 2014.
“The abuse was described as consisting of fondling her vagina area when he masturbated himself. It never proceeded to penetration, there was never sexual intercourse,” Det Garda Leahy said.
The victim did not want to be named but she wanted Buckley’s name to be published in any media coverage of the case.
She said in the course of her victim impact evidence: “I buried it away as much as I could until I saw my daughters growing up and it really all came back to me again. I look at their innocence and realise I was this age when Seamus Buckley abused me.
“I finally told my husband what was upsetting me in 2012. He was so angry as he knew the accused. In 2014, I told my siblings and this is when I had a breakdown.”
By November 2014 the injured party had made a formal statement of complaint to gardaí and an investigation commenced.
She said she was spurred on by the feeling that he did not appear to show any fear that she would ever tell anyone.
Buckley pleaded guilty to the charges against him and co-operated fully with the investigation, Det Garda Leahy said.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “In this case there was a significant breach of trust. Also there was an age difference between them [he was in his twenties at the time].
“As soon as he was confronted he pleaded guilty. He avoided the necessity of a trial. His plea of guilty is a public vindication of the injured party.
“It is an acknowledgement to the victim that she is blameless and he is the aggressor. She said in her victim impact statement that it was some vindication. It is more than that, it is a public vindication that you [the injured party] were right and he was wrong.
“I have been asked [by the defence barrister] to impose a non-custodial sentence. I do not believe I can do that. I must take into consideration his plea. He is now 57. A lot of his life has passed by where he has been living an otherwise blameless life.”
The judge said he was impressed by a background report on the accused by an expert in the area who described Buckley as genuinely remorseful and that this feeling was constantly with him.
Defence barrister Niamh Stewart said that the accused man had himself been the victim of sexual abuse in his own youth.
“He has this history of being sexually abused himself. He has no previous convictions. He is very remorseful.
“It would have been very hard to prosecute the case in the absence of his admission,” Ms Stewart submitted during the defence plea in mitigation.
Det Garda Leahy accepted this proposition.
Ms Stewart said. “He was very ashamed and remorseful. He said [there was] no blame at all attached to the injured party. He took full responsibility. He said there was nobody to blame but himself.”
The victim expressed her thanks to her husband and family and to Det Garda Leahy for their support and also thanked the ladies at Victim of Crime Support for their help, support, and words of wisdom.
For a number of years I was sexually abused by a trusted family friend, Seamus Buckley.
I didn’t realise at the time that he was grooming me as he would always give me the best of presents at Christmas and at my birthday.
I never felt safe at home because of him. He took every opportunity to get me alone, taking me to friends’ houses.
When I told him to stop what he was doing he made me feel that it was my fault. I was 13 years old then.
My parents sent me to boarding school. This was a great escape from him. I only came home at weekends and did everything to avoid him on the Saturdays.
I feel my education suffered a lot from the abuse. I started drinking at 16 to escape reality.
I did everything in my power to make my parents suffer. Now I realise this was wrong as my parents did not know what was happening to me because I hid it so well.
It affected relationships with everyone due to lack of trust.
I told my two girlfriends in 1995 when I started to realise how badly I was affected by it all.
I always took jobs away from home to avoid being in his company.
I used to get so angry when I would see him sitting at our dinner table.
I met my husband in 1996 and started to feel some way normal.
I buried it away as much as I could until I saw my daughters growing up and it really all came back to me again. I look at their innocence and realise I was this age when Seamus Buckley abused me.
I finally told my husband what was upsetting me in 2012. He was so angry as he knew the accused.
In 2014 I told my siblings and this is when I had a breakdown. I was on medication, sent for counselling, and then on for alternative therapy.
My siblings had trusted Seamus Buckley also.
I avoided going home to my mam and dad’s house. [Particular area where abuse occurred] still reminds me of the abuse. I want to assure my parents that they should not feel guilty because of what happened to me. How could they help me when they didn’t know?
I decided not to carry this alone any more. The fact that he had pleaded guilty gives me some vindication but I have lost many good years because of this abuse.
I want to get on with the rest of my life and no longer be his victim.
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