These are the words that sadden me most. In a case this week that makes my blood boil.
A father has been accused of, pleaded guilty to and convicted of raping his daughter for 10 years, here in Ireland. From when she was 8-18. Once a week.
Stop. Feel that in your bones. In your gut.
How can this be allowed to happen: in a child’s home, every week, for ten years? Those words, “your father’s whore” were her own mother’s, who knew, and let it continue.
Stop. Hear those words again.
Given 12 years, he walks free because of a heart condition. The judge said that “other factors were his guilty pleas, expression of remorse, good behaviour, history of employment and the length of time since the offences. Based on these factors he suspended the final nine years.”
Good f**king behaviour! Is raping your daughter for 10 years indicative of “good behaviour?” So he was a great man at his job, whoopee! That makes it alright then! We are talking about a man who systematically abused his child, walking free. It is as though the judge has heard, but not listened. Observed, but not felt. Seen, but not witnessed – neither the despicable damage caused to one woman, nor the bigger picture of abuser and abuse. (See this Irish Times article highlighting the leniency of sentencing for sex crimes http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2013/0123/1224329189707.html)
And so the cycle continues.
This woman has been failed by her father, in a basic betrayal of his duty to protect his daughter from harm. By her mother. By family members who turned away. And now by the State.
Another life. Another woman. Stamped out. Disregarded.
HOW can this be acceptable?
Except it is.
This country has a long history of protecting the (usually older, “respectable”, male) abuser and leaving the (often young, vulnerable, often female) victims broken and alone, even when courts of law have proven their cases. The abuse by priests and in care homes was endemic here. But this country is not alone. The horrific case in India. The Jimmy Saville case in the UK. How much longer will this continue?
I stand here, for what it’s worth, and say, from the core of my being: This is NOT acceptable. Not acceptable to me on any level. Something has to change. We have to move our culture from one that is blind and in denial, to one that truly witness and provides justice, which has a level of intolerance for persistent offenders, deep support and love for those who have been hurt, and a culture which cherishes its children and women. Which protects them.
A culture which loves them enough in the first place to not even conceive of abusing, humiliating, and using them.
I have two practical ways that you can help to make this happen.
There are two marches in support of Fiona this Saturday, according to the Irish Times. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2013/0123/breaking60.html
And on a larger scale – this is a piece in a global puzzle – that of the systematic rape, abuse and violence against women around the world, which is why I am supporting the 1 Billion Rising event on 14th February, organised by Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues. http://onebillionrising.org/
This worldwide rally is calling women and girls and men and boys to stand up, speak out against violence against women, and dance. Dance their anger, their beauty, their vulnerability. Dance together and alone. Dance for change.
Because something has to change. And we need to make a stand for it.
How are YOU making a difference? How are YOU standing for change?
Post script – BREAKING NEWS
A little improvement has just been announced in the case of the woman feature in today’s post. Her father’s bail has been suspended and he must serve three years. THREE YEARS??!!! And because of the public outrage.
“The bail of Patrick O’Brien – who was convicted of raping his daughter Fiona Doyle over a 10-year period – has been revoked by Mr Justice Paul Carney.
The sentencing judge today admitted he was wrong and insensitive to let the 72-year-old walk free from Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Monday. O’Brien’s jail term, including nine years suspended, starts now, the judge ruled.
He apologised today to Ms Doyle, who had waived her right to anonymity. He said he had no hesitation in expressing his “profound regret” for the distress caused to her in this case.” Irish Times