'I struggled a lot in my life,' says Cork woman sexually abused as girl by cousin on sleepovers

The court heard the woman had to remind herself that she was just a little girl and could not have prevented the sexual assaults
'I struggled a lot in my life,' says Cork woman sexually abused as girl by cousin on sleepovers

Judge Boyle imposed a two-year suspended jail sentence on Stephen Lane. File picture: Larry Cummins

A little girl was sexually abused by her older male cousin during sleepovers at his home and now she has spoken out about carrying a sense of shame for the past 18 years since it happened.

The offences occurred when the accused, Stephen Lane of Dermot Hurley Estate, Youghal, County Cork, was aged between 12 and 15, and the injured party, Zoe Lane, was aged between eight and 11. The victim wanted the accused named and she was happy to waive her own right to anonymity, Judge Helen Boyle said at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Impact of assaults

The injured party, who is now 25, said: “I lacked the understanding of what was happening to me because I was so young, and I was confused about what was going on. I feel these emotions still to this day and it’s something I’m constantly working on. I was never the best version of myself because my head was constantly confused and I struggled a lot in my life.” 

Judge Boyle imposed a two-year suspended jail sentence on Stephen Lane on Thursday. The judge noted that the 30-year-old defendant was unemployed and reclusive and he had no previous convictions of any sort. John Devlin, defence barrister, said the young man rarely leaves the family home and might be on the autistic spectrum.

Zoe Lane said in her victim impact statement that the assaults had a serious impact on her throughout her childhood and adulthood. She used alcohol to cope with her feelings, and she had to remind herself that she was just a little girl and could not have prevented it.

She appreciated her parents’ support and said she would not have gotten to this stage in her life without them. She described the feeling of carrying shame and guilt for the last 18 years even though she was not the one who had done anything wrong.

Judge Boyle said: “She spoke most eloquently. She is right. She did not do anything wrong and neither did her parents.” Addressing her directly, the judge said: “You are to be congratulated for the progress you have made.” 

Struggle to empathise

Imelda Kelly, prosecution barrister, accepted that the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the offending.

Mr Devlin BL said it was different from other cases, notably because the defendant was a very young person at the time. He was deeply remorseful and a person of certain vulnerabilities who did not appreciate the harm he was doing, the barrister said.

“He spends all day in his room. He is described as being a low risk of re-offending. It was a serious case and there is no gainsaying the damage caused to the injured party,” Mr Devlin said.

Detective Garda Mairéad Morrissey of Fermoy garda station said the 12 sexual assault charges dated from a period between January 2005 and June 2007.

The injured party was aged between eight and 11 when she was sexually assaulted by the defendant, aged 12 to 15. She was on sleepovers at his house and sharing his bed during some of the incidents.

The detective said the nature of the sexual assaults was that he kissed her mouth and tried to put his tongue through her clenched teeth and he also put her hand on his genital area, using her hand to rub himself.

It was noted from a background psychological report that the defendant acknowledges his struggles to empathise. He also struggles with anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation. He says he does not like himself and hates himself even more at the thought that he had hurt his cousin.

The psychologist said that with his innate vulnerabilities, a custodial sentence would have a detrimental effect.

- If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please click here for a list of support services.

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