'I feel him touching me and my whole body seizes up': Woman raped by father tormented by flashbacks

A woman who was raped and abused by her own father from the age of three has told how she is still tormented by harrowing flashbacks of the reign of terror she was subjected to.

'I feel him touching me and my whole body seizes up': Woman raped by father tormented by flashbacks

A woman who was raped and abused by her own father from the age of three has told how she is still tormented by harrowing flashbacks of his reign of terror.

Sophia Murphy has opened up about the horrific and non-stop abuse that was inflicted on her over a 13-year period at her family homes in Galway and Mayo by her father John Murphy.

Murphy, 62, a former member of the Irish Defence Forces, was sentenced last year to 18 years behind bars.

But Sophia, 34 - whose two younger sisters were also abused by their father - said she is still tortured on a daily basis by the painful memories of the horrendous abuse she suffered.

In a frank and emotional TV interview, which will be aired on TG4 next week, she says: "The hardest part of the day is the flashbacks. I could be sitting watching the telly and a programme will come on, and the next thing I'm sitting in the sitting room with Dad back in Galway.

"I can smell his skin, I can feel the blanket over me, I can feel him breathing over me, and sometimes I feel him touching me and my whole body seizes up. It frustrates me so much."

Poignantly, and at regular intervals during the interview - which is the first part of the new series of Finné from next Wednesday - Sophia holds back the tears as she reads out a carefully crafted letter she wrote to her younger self.

Recounting her earliest memory of being abused by her father at just three when she was with him on a bus in Galway, she says: "I was an adult before I was even a child."

And recalling another chilling memory, she says: "The happiest day of my childhood was my Holy Communion. I remember being in my bedroom and spinning around in my dress for hours, feeling special and like a princess.

"I remember the day after when I was playing with the dress, Dad came in and he put his head under my dress, and he just done what he done."

As horrific and frequent as the sexual abuse was, it wasn't the only type of abuse she was subjected to.

She recalls another nightmarish episode in the programme when her enraged father whipped her viciously with curtain wire on her back and legs, after she refused to play in a paddling pool full of dead flies.

"You could be walking past him and you'd get a belt in the back of the head. He used to call me 'fat whale' in front of my friends, or he'd belt me without even thinking about it. I could be walking past him, he'd grab me by the boob, grab me the bum, he'd put his finger in my private area. It was constant.

There was never a day that me and him were in the same room that he would not touch me in some way.

Despite the horrendous abuse that was inflicted on Sophia, as is common with victims who are controlled by their abuser, she often blamed herself rather than him.

And she took her frustrations out in herself in her early teens, turning to alcohol and drugs and self-harming.

However, her life started to turn around at the age of 17 when she went to England for a period and became pregnant with her boyfriend, and subsequently had a daughter, Sarah.

In an uplifting segment of the programme, she says of her 17-year-old daughter: "Sarah was the best thing in the world that happened to me. She gave me a reason to live, to be strong. She's my world, my everything."

Sophia Murphy outside court last year after her father John Murphy was jailed for 18 years for the the rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of her at locations in Co Galway and Co Mayo on dates between 1988 and 2001. Picture: Courtpix
Sophia Murphy outside court last year after her father John Murphy was jailed for 18 years for the the rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of her at locations in Co Galway and Co Mayo on dates between 1988 and 2001. Picture: Courtpix

Last year Sophia finally received justice when her father

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In court Sophia waived her right to anonymity to ensure her father was named, reading out a poignant victim impact statement as he was jailed.

And recalling facing up to her father in court, she says: "He destroyed my life. He took everything from me - my education, my innocence, my well-being, my self-worth. But it wasn't until I sat down and wrote that victim impact statement that I figured all that out. Not alone was I giving it to the court, I was telling my Dad what he had done to me."

She also reveals in the documentary that she has visited her father in jail, recalling: "It was petrifying. My legs were like jelly."

She adds: "I think he's sorry for the damage he's caused, but I don't think it would stop him doing it again, though."

Sophia's story will be aired at 9.30pm next Wednesday on TG4. The documentary is the first part of the second series of Finné, which explores the personal testimony of those who have lived through difficult experiences.

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