'I fear for my life every day,' says young Cork woman beaten five times by her partner

In one of the assaults 26-year-old Justin McCarthy bit both of her ears as he held her on the floor
'I fear for my life every day,' says young Cork woman beaten five times by her partner

26-year-old Justin McCarthy was jailed for one year and three months for assault causing harm to her five times in two years. File picture: Larry Cummins

WARNING: Some readers may find this report upsetting

A young woman whose life has been destroyed by repeated violent beatings by her partner now lives a life of fear – “I fear for my life every day. I fear for the lives of other women.” 

Alison Fitzgerald spoke of feeling destroyed and drained. Her former partner, 26-year-old Justin McCarthy was jailed for one year and three months after he pleaded guilty to charges of assault causing harm to her on five occasions over a period of two years.

He brought €10,000 compensation to court for her. Although she has been left with thousands of euro in bills for counselling, medical and domestic expenses, Ms Fitzgerald wants the money to donate the money to the domestic violence charity, Edel House, with a token to be paid in gratitude to the woman who raised the alarm.

Another Fermoy woman heard screams and cries for help from a house and the gardaí called to find a badly beaten young woman begging for help.

Alison Fitzgerald’s then-partner, 26-year-old Justin McCarthy with addresses at McDermot Place, Fermoy, and Liam McGearalit Place, Fermoy, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to her that night and assault causing harm to her on four other occasions across a period of two years.

Judge Helen Boyle jailed him for one year and three months. She imposed a sentence of two years and three months with one year suspended at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Details of assaults

Garda Padraig O’Neill gave evidence of the five counts of assault causing harm carried out by Justin McCarthy against his then-girlfriend Alison Fitzgerald.

The investigation began when the anonymous caller phoned the gardaí and said that she heard screams and cries for help coming from a woman’s voice in the accused man’s house. Gardaí went to that house and identified themselves as members of An Garda Síochána on that night – March 29, 2021.

On investigation, gardaí gathered evidence in relation to a total of five separate occasions of violence, generally taking place in a bedroom – four times where they were living in Fermoy and once on an overnight stay at the Maritime hotel in Bantry.

The assaults included McCarthy throwing the injured party out of bed, repeatedly slapping her, punching her in the face and a number of occasions of severe biting. In one of the assaults he bit both of her ears as he held her on the floor. In others the victim was bitten on the arms and shoulders. 

She was dragged by the hair. One time she was punched at least 20 times in the face with closed fists as she was held on the floor. Judge Boyle went through this list of violent attacks and also noted that the young woman had her head banged against walls and hard objects.

Brian Leahy defence barrister, said the young man had been seriously ill for two years as a teenager and he never articulated or dealt with the effect of this on him.

Victim impact statement

The victim of the assaults, Alison Fitzgerald, described how she now feels after this two-year period when so much violence was done to her.

“I am entirely psychologically, emotionally, physically and financially destroyed and drained from this. I now constantly seek approval for what I wear, what I say, if am allowed to speak or not. My self-esteem and self-worth are now non-existent.

This has affected me every day of my life. I have never been able to walk downtown on my own since March of last year – something I was looking forward to being able to do since I moved from the countryside into town.. I am terrified to meet him or his family.

“I am afraid to meet my friends in public. I can’t walk anywhere on my own. Even when I’m walking with someone my hands shake and my heart races. I walk with my head down and I am fighting off a panic attack.

“I have developed a debilitating fear of any sudden or loud noise. When I see something is about to fall I cower as I am afraid of the noise that is about to follow.

“I have to be facing a door at all times as I cannot shake the fear that someone is about to enter a room when I’m home alone. When I enter my apartment on my own I have to check all rooms, inside wardrobes, the hot press etc. and I will rarely put out my wheelie bins as I’m afraid to bring them down the back alley for collection.

“The noise of the hairdryer frightens me. I dread having to dry my hair because of the loud noise. I have to stay facing my bedroom door as I dry my hair and try to complete it as fast as possible.

"The anxiety I have developed has made my daily life a struggle. The simplest tasks take me hours to complete. I suffer night terrors. I have spent thousands on counselling.

“I have had to work so hard on building myself and my life back up, on understanding how I could fall victim, how I could be manipulated to the point where I question my sanity and my mental health. I fear for my life every day. I fear for the lives of other women.

My life has been forever changed. I will never be the same person again. I have lost myself. I have lost the ability to carry out normal day-to-day tasks – my job has suffered, my friendships, my independence, my personality.

“My entire life will never be the same. The physical scars will remain on my body. The emotional and psychological scars have not healed and I’m afraid they never will.

“I stared death in the face.

“Your home should be where you are most safe but that has been stolen from me. My safety and security inside and outside of my home have been taken. I am waiting each day for the time when I will be killed.

“No man or woman ever deserves to have their mental health, psychological and emotional wellbeing, their body, their financial state or their safety violated and abused. I have undergone countless hours of counselling to help me deal with this trauma and I know this will be a lifelong issue I will need help with.”

- 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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