THE 24-year-old victim in the controversial Kerry sex assault case may be forced to move out of Listowel because of the “intolerable hostility towards her”, a close family member has said.
There is reportedly more support in the area for local man Danny Foley – who received a seven-year jail sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting the woman in June 2008 – than there is for her.
Her aunt revealed the 35-year-old bouncer is a popular figure locally, while she tends to stay at home and keep to herself. “She cannot live a proper life down there. She’s going to have to move,” she said.
But Bernie McCarthy, a counsellor from the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre who accompanied the victim to court, hoped she would be able to continue living in the area with proper support. “She has an awful lot of courage and I’m hoping she will be able to stay with that. The people will show that they are supporting her as well,” she added.
Many people countrywide were shocked to hear that 50 neighbours and friends of the accused shook his hand and embraced him prior to the sentencing hearing at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee on Wednesday.
The bizarre scene prompted the biggest reaction ever received at the Rape Crisis Centre in Tralee, where a spokesperson praised the woman’s bravery in reading a victim impact statement “in a courtroom that was filled with hostility towards her”.
A priest who was among those that queued to shake Foley’s hand and who gave character evidence on his behalf was censured by his bishop last night.
Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy said in a statement he wished to disassociate himself and the diocese of Kerry from Fr Sheehy’s actions and statements regarding the case.
The bishop offered his sympathy to the victim and apologised to her on his own behalf and on behalf of the diocese.
“I pay tribute to her courage. I hope what has happened will not undermine the progress that has been made in bringing perpetrators of sexual abuse to justice,” he said.
However, Fr Sean Sheehy stood over his statement that Foley had the highest respect for women and did not have an abusive bone in his body.
“I won’t recant because of my knowledge of this person [accused],” he said. But when Fr Sheehy remarked the victim did not appear depressed or overly nervous in court, Rape Crisis Centre director Vera O’Leary said he needed to consider the victim’s situation and inform himself of the impact of sexual crime on victims.
Foley’s fiancée said she was standing by him and did not believe he was guilty.
Meanwhile, the show of solidarity for Foley has sparked a flood of angry comments on a Facebook page called “Shocked By Reaction In Listowel”. By last night, over 1,900 people had expressed their revulsion at what took place.
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