A WOMAN who suffered eight years of “appalling” sexual abuse by her brother from the age of four in their Co Dublin family home has been awarded a record €2.5 million damages against him.
After one hour of deliberation, the High Court jury of seven men and five women unanimously found the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sexually assaulted and awarded her €2m compensatory and €500,000 exemplary damages.
The award is the highest ever here for child sex abuse, with the second-highest being about €1m, Mr Justice Éamon de Valera observed.
Earlier, Aileen Donnelly SC, with Sean Gillane SC for the woman, said from the age of four to about 12 she was subjected to regular and repeated grave sexual assaults, including penetration and rape, by her brother who was about six or seven years older.
Her brother was later convicted on eight counts of indecent assault. He had filed a defence in the case but that was struck out last October in light of the criminal conviction. An application yesterday to reinstate the defence was refused.
Urging the jury to award aggravated and exemplary damages, Mr Gillane said the case involved a particularly “desperate violation” as it was against a very young child in her family home and she had no one to turn to. The woman had suffered “the most appalling consequences” with her world being turned “upside down”.
When aged 17, the victim made a statement to gardaí about the abuse but was ostracised by her family as a result and became homeless for a time, the court heard. She has never returned home and the abuse had the “most appalling” and lifelong consequences for her.
The jury heard the woman was first admitted to a psychiatric institution at the age of 18 when she threw herself off Dun Laoghaire pier. A non-swimmer, she was rescued and remains under psychiatric care.
She has had 11 hospital admissions since for reasons including self-harm and suicide attempts.
In evidence the woman, now in her early 30s, said she has never had a relationship because she is unable to have sex as all she can see is her brother’s face.
“I’ve always wanted to have a family and children but it’s not looking likely because I don’t trust any man,” she said.
The woman, among the youngest of a large family, said the abuse began when she was four and she was “not a great sleeper” because she was “terrified” it would happen.
The abuse led to sex “most of the time” and happened two or three times weekly in the family home until she was 11, she said. She would go to bed wearing pyjamas and wake up naked.
She said the abuse made her feel angry, upset and dirty but she had no real understanding of what was happening and was too afraid to say anything.
Her brother was feared within the family and would lash out both at their parents and the children. It was only when she received sex education at school that she began “to my own horror” to understand what had happened to her
She would stay in bed for very long periods, had often cut herself and had also tried to hang herself.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved