“My first memory was when I was four but I lost my virginity when I was eight,” says the 47-year-old mother of five, whose violent mother cared little for her daughter’s welfare.
The physical pain and the emotional trauma was excruciating, but it was the fear her ordeal instilled in her that had the most lasting effect, ensuring Cassie stayed silent until the last few years.
“When you are being abused, it’s a secret,” she said. “If you tell, daddy will go to jail and it will be your fault. You assume this terrible responsibility to keep a secret and you assume the blame.
“But the most horrendous emotion that you carry around with you is fear. It’s a crippling, intense, paralysing fear. You fear the consequences. Am I going to break up my family? Is nobody going to believe me? Is everybody going to blame me? My fear paralysed me for over 40 years.”
By that time, Cassie was in a violent relationship, still in fear and still blaming herself. “It got to the point where I felt I was going to be murdered or die by my own hand and that’s when finally I looked for help,” she said.
“I heard an ad on the radio for a helpline and eventually I called it. That was the best call I ever made, and I want to scream at the Government, please, please stop cutting money for these services because when someone finally gets the courage to speak out, it would be devastating to find nobody there to help them.”
Cassie has written about her experience in the recently published Did You Hear Me Crying?, proceeds of which are being shared by CARI, Women’s Aid, and Barnardos.
“I was born in 1966 and there were no services available to us,” said Cassie. “We were ruled by teachers with sticks and the Church putting the fear of God into us. Ireland has come on so much since then but the fear in children is still enormous so we have to keep our services strong for them.
“The Government can’t have this children’s referendum and then not have the services to back up its promises. It is horrendous that anyone should go through half a lifetime unable to speak out, and to those who have not yet found their voice, I would say that by keeping the secret, you allow your abuser to keep control over you. Speak out and do not be frightened. I did it and you can do it too.”