Not being believed was almost worse than being raped again.

To be honest at first I didn’t believe a lot of what Sarah was telling me. There was just too much bad luck, too many coincidences and too many instances of discrimination to have credibly happened to one person. Outrageous behaviour on the part of people like the HSE official Sarah claimed had told her it was her fault that her daughter was raped. Or the Social Worker who dangled the carrot of access to the services they sought if Sarah and her daughter would stop complaining about the HSE.

The bare bones of what Sarah was telling me rang true. Her daughter had been raped and systematically abused by a neighbour. The DPP had found insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution. Though the Gardai referred Sarah’s daughter Maggie to the HSE she didn’t get the psychological or medical assessment she required. This was because the HSE wanted to interview Maggie on her own but the 11 year old rape victim didn’t want to go without her mother. A stand-off ensued.

All of that was all too believable. The level of rudeness and hostility that Sarah said she experienced initially sounded excessive to me. I related it all to a colleague who suggested I drop the matter, too much of it was unproveable, the rest was hearsay.  Her alarm bells were ringing too. But because there was a violent rapist and paedophile at large within a community, and because a by now teenage girl was still being denied access to services she should properly receive I decided that it was of sufficient public interest to pursue.

An off record conversation with an HSE official appeared initially to confirm my colleague’s suspicions about Sarah. The official went to extraordinary lengths to blacken Sarah’s character. I might well have accepted what I was being told but the claims smacked of overkill. I spent a day or two chasing my tail checking out the allegations, all of which proved to be outright lies. Even though what I was told is demonstrably false I won’t relate any of it for fear some of it might stick. It suffices to say that in over twenty years of being on the receiving end of off record briefings I have never ever heard anything similar.

Not that any of it matters because all the attempts by a public official to ruin the reputation of a private individual did not distract from the central problem. Maggie had been raped and the HSE had not provided her with any counselling.

Maggie made an attempt on her life in the weeks before her mother got her independent private counselling. She made a further attempt to kill herself when the DPP told her mother he would not be pursuing her case. She made another attempt on her life after she regrettably decided to confront her rapist and denounce him, but he raped her again at knife point. She tried to kill herself again a few months ago, seven years after she first reported her abuse.

Where were the Gardai in all of this, you are probably asking yourself. Why wasn’t there a squad car parked right outside this man’s house 24/7? Why haven’t this man’s other rape victims been persuaded to give evidence? The Garda investigation of Maggie’s case is itself the subject of an investigation by the Garda Ombudsman at present. It would be unwise to prejudice that process or the possibility of renewed action against this paedophile by An Garda Siochana. So I will keep my own counsel on the answers to these disturbing questions for the moment. But time is of the essence.

The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman has earned itself some stripes by wading in to this one up to its waist. In an as yet unpublished report I have had sight of it takes the HSE to task for how it failed Maggie.

They couldn’t find a female doctor to conduct a medical examination. “The HSE actions in arranging medical examinations show significant and unexplained lapses of time”

Solicitors for Maggie contacted the HSE six months after she had first reported her allegations in an attempt to try and get the HSE to engage directly for the child’s benefit. The Ombudsman notes “It does not appear that the HSE substantively responded to that request at that time”. In actual fact the letter was ignored by the HSE.
“Communication difficulties” with the child’s parent “were exacerbated by administrative inefficiency and delay on the part of the HSE”.

The Ombudsman’s office met with Maggie and concluded “It is clear that she feels her views were not respected by the HSE and that her voice was ignored”

The ombudsman blames the HSE for not obtaining direct knowledge of the child’s basic wishes and concludes “The delay had direct adverse effect on the child by depriving the child of social work”

In response to my report on RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime the HSE told me that they were in the process of drafting a response for the Ombudsman so they couldn’t comment. The same statement also said, “The HSE is conscious of the trauma of child sexual abuse and alleged child sexual abuse and offers counselling, support and services to anyone (my italics) who has disclosed alleged abuse.”

Maggie is seventeen now. She is bright and articulate, but clearly emotionally wounded. The rapes have obviously taken their toll. But so too has not being believed. In this interview I conducted with her she intimates that she would almost prefer the abuse to have continued than not be believed.

That made me feel ashamed I ever doubted her story. Then again, when in the fullness of time all the details of what Maggie has been put through by supposed servants of the public can be revealed you will have a hard time believing it too.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Not being believed was almost worse than being raped again.

  1. Hugh Quigley

    Well done for following the story, there is still so much going on in our society that needs to be brought into the public domain.

  2. John Gallen

    So we have the HSE not doing its job, the Garda not doing their job and these are some of the public servants who see no reason for cuts to their pay and terms and conditions. What a country!

  3. Congratulations on staying with the investigation, I hope the young lady in question will have some solace when the perpetrator is brought to justice, when those who turned away will be forced to realise the enormity of their compliance with evil.

  4. Thatman

    Absolutely disturbing behavior by the HSE but unfortunately I am not surprised. I spent many years fighting them on an almost daily basis, during which time the service had evolved from a health board framework to the current structure of the HSE. During that time I was essentially fighting for my life in a manner of speaking as a result sexual, emotional and physical abuse sustained as a child both in the home and a day school environment. At the time I had spoken up about it and while it was proven and in some cases acknowledged I was like the young victim here trying to deal with the associated psychological aspects. While i may have been an adult the never ending flashbacks and the mental trauma was very difficult to deal with. I was also attempting to seek access to a recommended overseas medical treatment for an associated chronic medical condition which the recommendation was sought for and in the end to be paid for by the regional health board involved. This recommended treatment which was supplied to patients in other EU countries without exception in excess of 25 years was denied to me. While the health board structure was in existence I had some success and progress but this was never without a battle first. Payment for treatment was provided on two occasions but this proven and cost effective treatment was required annually. During this time I continued to be able to work, get on with life and was even trying to start a business the purpose of which was to be able to live and hopefully pay for treatment myself if all else failed. At that time I was working three jobs, one full time and two part time, earnings were put aside to pay for annual treatments for a condition that was worsening. Upon the emergence of the HSE everything went in a manner of speaking to hell. I fought for treatment, fighting every way I could, via letter, via doctors requests and via telephone calls. I was even telephoned at 8.15am one morning by the head of the local HSE who was known to me by name and I recognized the persons voice and after this person had introduced themselves once again by name to me I was informed or more to the point (threatened) with “an injunction being sought in the courts to prevent you accessing this treatment”. My reply was to please seek it as I would have every journalist I could in court to hear the HSE affidavit as well as mine as to why it shouldn’t be granted, I further advised the caller to expect to be called as a witness. The reaction I got was to instruct me not ever telephone the office of Prof Drumm as telephone calls received at the local HSE office from the chief executives office were not appreciated. Various never ending wrangling by the HSE and the decision by the person responsible for clinical treatments not to provide me with recommended treatment on the basis of “information gleaned online” shocked and alarmed both consultants who claimed that their reports were ignored and the decision was totally wrong and the clinical study quoted was wrong one of whom was a recognized authority on the condition in Ireland and who was working for the HSE. My prognosis without this treatment was permanent disability. I was at that time in a worsening condition and the replies from the HSE regarding the refusal of access to treatment abroad under E112 facilities, the national treatment purchase fund and my concerns about them breaching the EU patients charter to which they were signatories to got me a reply that I would have to take my case all the way to the European courts if i could afford to and to remember that they were not spending their own money.

    What they did offer me in writing was a counseling service which they advised me in writing could cure my medial condition and like the young victim in your report and the dangled carrot they said they would then engage with me if I stopped complaining and attended the counseling center. They further told me that all matters pertaining to my care were to now go through community care. I questioned this decision advising that I was a grown adult capable of taking care of myself and not a ward of court. I never received a reply.

    I attended the counseling center twice where a counselor advised me on the first occasion he was going to take a statement from me to which I said no and on the second occasion some information I imparted in confidence was immediately forwarded to An Garda Siochana without my knowledge or authority and I was approached one day at work without any warning and asked lots of questions about the info given. I declined to support a complaint of undoubtedly negligence and certainly malfeasance against a serving Garda.

    I could go on and on and on, there is 10 years worth of this. I fought and I lost at a time I was essentially fighting for my life. I thought seriosuly about taking it enough times and even contacted the Dignatas center with a view to seeking assisted death. It would have been a relief. I even indulged in several hunger and thirst strikes to no avail, one of which landed me in hospital dehydrated.Through ill health I lost my business and could not continue working and with it my only dignity which I always sought through work, there wasn’t another way for me. I lost my home, I lost everything, I couldn’t work or feed myself. I no longer live in Ireland but I still live a daily fine line between a battle to continue and a desire to die.

    Like this young lady nobody knows my pain but I do hope she can get the help she deserves. She is young and there is always hope.

    I do not wish to see another person suffer with the HSE

    I didnt wish to appear to hijack this thread/blog but the suffering of this victim has brought it all home to me again.

    The end result of sexual abuse is a lifetime of trauma, the guilt, the never ending flashbacks. I know some of what this young victim is going through and it hurts like hell to know what the HSE and others have put her through.

    Has Ireland not grown up yet ?

    How can we as Irish hold our head high here ?

    Shame on us as a nation, this young lady and countless others deserve much better

  5. thatman

    I apologize for my earlier lengthy post on this blog, the report by Phillip makes difficult reading in this day and age.

  6. Christine

    This story horrified me. Our country and it’s systems have failed yet another person. And a child at that. *hangs head in shame*

  7. Malachy kearns

    Bless this broken child.Appling what sick silence and lack of courage by supposed well paid responsible adult ‘s does ..Its a crime to look the other way. Happens a lot in Irel. I salute PBH as he deeply looks at ‘ the devil is in the detail’ … Take great energy to be a fighter like Philip. Beir Buaidh

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