‘He took away my innocence’. That was how one sexual assault survivor has described the impact of years of abuse at the hands of her father. She also said that the abuse tore her family apart.
In a brave victim impact statement at the sentencing of her father, John Murphy, formerly of Nephin View Manor, Ballina Road, Foxford, Michaela Murphy said she did not want any child to go through what she had gone though, adding that it took all the strength she had to come forward and report the abuse.
Murphy was sentenced to a total of eight years in prison for the sexual assault of Ms Murphy, her sister Stephanie Prendergast and another woman who is not related to the accused, between 1992 and 2013 in Counties Mayo and Galway.
The two sisters waived their right to anonymity in the hope of encouraging other victims of sexual abuse to come forward – and to let them know that ‘they are not alone’.
‘A way of living’
Castlebar Circuit Court heard that Murphy pleaded guilty to 20 counts of sexual assault after being charged with 72 counts, spanning from 1992 to 2013.
Garda Thomasina McHale told the court that Stephanie Prendergast was adopted by Mr Murphy and his wife at the age of two, from his wife’s brother. Ms Prendergast remembered the abuse starting at the age of four, at two locations in Galway, as well as a house in Foxford and a location in Bonniconlon.
“The abuse I went through was constant, daily, it was a way of living,” said Ms Prendergast in her statement.
The abuse of Ms Murphy occurred between 2009 and 2012. Ms Murphy remembers that on one occasion her father pulled down her pyjamas and put his hand around her bottom. On another occasion, at Christmas time she was going to a disco and had two friends at her house, her father put his hand up her dress and grabbed her bottom and was always ‘touchy feely’ which seemed ‘normal’.
The abuse of the third victim, who has chosen to remain anonymous, occurred between 2006 and 2013.
The court was told that after the victims contacted the Gardaí in 2015, an ‘extensive investigation’ was conducted. John Murphy, a former member of the Defence Forces, was ‘cooperative’. The court was told he had previously served a three-year prison sentence for sexual assault, a term imposed in 2015.
He admitted he was ‘sick and needed help’. Defending barrister Diarmuid Connolly told the court that other ‘more serious’ matters are to appear before the Central Criminal Court in July. When questioned on October 20, 2016, about the offences, he said he could have grabbed his daughters’ bottoms and breasts 500 to 1,000 times.
In her victim impact statement, read to the court, Ms Prendergast said there was ‘almost a sense of normality’ about the abuse taking place, and that she protected friends from her father.
As a result of the ongoing abuse, she self-harmed and attempted to take her own life. She became pregnant with her now husband at aged 18 and feared for the safety of her unborn child. Anxiety and depression surfaced.
“This should never have happened, and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life,” she said.
Ms Murphy, who read out her statement to the court, also said she was nervous leaving friends alone with her father. She said by coming forward she now at last stands ‘with the power in my hands’.
Ms Murphy also attempted suicide and self-harmed, and was also diagnosed with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic-stress disorder and insomnia.
The third victim said that John Murphy ‘took advantage’ of her. She said that as a result of the abuse she became hostile and would ‘drink ’til I was numb’.
Mr Connolly said his client, Mr Murphy, suffered from depression. He said he also suffered from ‘Wilson’s Syndrome’, and had undergone a liver transplant 12 years ago.
Judge Rory McCabe described the case as ‘clear and cunning abuse’ which had a ‘cataclysmic’ impact on the three victims. He said Mr Murphy should never have access to children and that there was ‘no room for a suspended sentence’ considering the gravity of the offences. Sentencing Murphy to a total of eight years in prison, he ordered that Murphy be supervised for five years post-release.