We are three sisters born into a large family of ten children in the late-1950’s early 1960’s in a disadvantaged area of Dublin, where our father sexually abused us daily from age three or four right up to our late teens. In 1989, we made the decision to bring charges against our father and, in 1990; the Irish State took a successful case against him. He was convicted and sentenced to a term of seven years and was released having served five.
In 1992 we took part in a ground-breaking RTE documentary series entitled ‘Tuesday File’, Silent Scream (produced by Moya Doherty). Up to that point, RTE programmes on child abuse always had the interviewee’s face hidden and voices distorted, but we openly volunteered to share our story and despite the attempted injunction by our imprisoned father, the documentary was aired on RTE in October 1992. The programme won a ‘Jacobs Award’ in 1992 and early the next year we were nominated for the Harvey’s/ Sunday Independent Irish Women of the Year. This programme also went on to be used as a training tool for professionals dealing with abuse victims and won the US National Women’s Studies Association Award in 1994.
In September 2011 the book of our childhood experience entitled ‘Click, Click’ was published by the Hachette Book Group and went straight to number one in the Irish non-fiction bestseller list. The book, which was nearly twenty years in the writing, tells openly of our experiences from childhood to the current day, detailing the abuse and manipulation we and our mother suffered at the hands of our father and how, ultimately, we have triumphed over this abuse. In 2011 we were awarded a Special Merit Award by our local community for our bravery in writing our book.
Our message of hope has resonated with readers not only in Ireland but across the UK. Following our UK appearance on ITV’s This Morning with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, on May 3rd, 2012, the book went straight to number four on the Amazon UK bestseller list and went on to number three in the UK nonfiction best-seller list and stayed in the top ten for 10 weeks.
Our story attracted a lot of media attention in the UK because our honesty and humour have not previously been seen in the media in relation to this type of subject matter. Best Magazine, Best of Chat Magazine, the Sun Newspaper, the Irish Post Newspaper and the Scottish Daily Record Newspaper along with BBC World Service Radio and LBC Radio ran interviews with us. We have received hundreds of correspondences from individual readers and viewers expressing their thanks to us for sharing our story.
We were nominated for Best Magazine’s Inspirational Women Awards that took place in November 2012 in London. Following that media activity, we have shared our story with a number of groups in Ireland, Northern Ireland and in London and we were keynote speakers at The Open-Door Network Annual Conference, Home Truths – The Irish Experience of Domestic and Sexual Violence in November 2012.
In 2020 it was re-published under a new title ‘Our Father’s Secret’ in the UK by the Orion Publishing Group. The book has been described as “a powerful, emotional and sometimes harrowing story of childhood sexual abuse.” Childhood sexual abuse is a crime that effects every aspect of your life. It alters how you think and feel about yourself and all those around you. It changes how you are in the world. You must develop a new way of being in order to cope and because of this, you are completely unaware of how profoundly you have been damaged.
The biggest impacts of abuse are those that are hidden from the conscious mind. In December 2017 we self-published our second book ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse.’ This is a book of hope. It is a unique resource that blends theory with practical examples of how the effects of abuse can manifest in the lives of its victims. It provides real life experiences of the variety of conditions and disorders that develop because of being abused and what they look like in real life, as well as providing steps to help victims overcome these impacts.
We had a very negative experience of the judicial system even making allowances for the fact in 1990 these cases were new. Our issue is that we have not witnessed much change since then and we really want to contribute to bringing about positive change. The exclusion from the process was the most harmful to us, as there was no consideration for the fact that our life was on trial. We were not given access to information in relation to court dates and appearances. Legal representation was not awarded to us, yet he sat with a barrister and two solicitors. We met the state prosecutor just 30 minutes before the court case and he struggled to make eye contact. During the hearing, our father got to dictate whether our statements were read out in court or not. The process was shameful, the sentence was inadequate, and it added to the trauma we had experienced. It is our intention to promote a greater understanding of and recovery from childhood sexual abuse, thus creating the motivation for change.
I come sixth in our family of ten children and like all my siblings before me, left school at age 12. I immediately began working with my mother in our family business. We had a grocer shop that over time diversified and transformed into a toy factory which I continued to work in long after I was married with children.
It was only when I was in my thirties and after my father was gone that I returned to education to study reflexology. I loved all things holistic and after achieving my qualification I went on to gain a further qualification in Aura Soma (healing through colours). Although I really enjoyed working at both, it was not financially feasible to continue in this line of work.
I have always been very active within my community and firmly believed that I could make a difference in people’s lives. I went on to work for a community organisation that made education accessible to those like me, had left school early. It seemed a natural progression to avail of the opportunity to achieve a Degree in Community Development and Leadership.
In the background and for many years, myself and my sisters were also working on our first book Click, Click and the self-learning and constant reflection led to tremendous growth. The launching of the book and the many talks we gave both here and, in the UK, feed my soul. As time passed I had to take stock of my life so in 2013 I took voluntary redundancy from my job and focused on our second book.
Today I have a wonderful partner and six amazing children. I am passionate about continuing our work and sharing the learning. I believe that our experience of abuse and our recovery has provided us with the tools to help others. I also know that our collective experience along with the knowledge we have accumulated over the years can help other survivors avoid a lot of pain
I’m number eight, in a family of ten children. Like Joyce, I left school at twelve. I hated it with a passion and never looked back. I began working in our grocer shop and then when it changed to a toy factory, the transition was seamless. I discovered very quickly that I preferred working in the toy factory more than the monotony of house cleaning or cooking for twelve people every day, so I became a great worker. This was my life pretty much until I was in my twenties.
My poor educational background and my even poorer self-esteem resulted in a career in hospitality that I never wanted. I was good at it but undervalued anything I did so didn’t realise the importance of it till much later in life. It wasn’t till I was married with children that I pursued a career in holistic therapy, this was one of the most terrifying decisions of my life, but I achieved qualifications in reflexology, Indian head massage, aroma therapy and acupressure.
I thought I’d found my calling and continued to study Reiki, tarot reading, aura soma and finally I studied and qualified in acupuncture. I initially thought I could cure/fix the world, one person at a time but it wasn’t long before my lack of self-worth stopped me trusting myself. I began to feel like a fraud. When an opportunity to go for a degree in Community Development and Leadership arose I couldn’t resist. I had to drop everything else as it was a huge commitment, but I did it.
Writing both our books ‘Click Click’ and ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse.’ has been the most important achievement of my life, that is apart from giving birth to my three sons. I believe writing our books goes a long way to fulfilling my life’s mission.
I am the ninth in a family of ten children and the youngest of the four girls. When I left school at 14, I had no choice but to work in the family business which I hated with every bone of my body. My saving grace was sport. I used it as an escape and spent most of my teenage and early adult years heavily involved in basketball.
When the business closed down I returned to education in my 30’s to study reflexology and discovered I had a passion for learning. I continued on to qualify in complementary therapies. However, after working in that field for a very short time I realised that it wasn’t for me. I was so insecure and took it as a personal reflection on my abilities if someone didn’t make a second appointment. I also felt conflicted telling clients to take care of themselves while avoiding any kind of work on myself.
In 2003 I again returned to education as a way of avoiding getting a real job. At the time I convinced myself that if I just had more qualifications I would be better placed to remain self-employed avoiding ever having to put myself out in the real world. I signed up for a BSc Degree course in Leisure Management as I knew this would give me four more years before I had to worry about anything.
I did eventually get a job when I completed my degree working in a community organisation that Joyce worked in. This gave me the safety net I needed. However, following the publications of our first book ‘Click, Click’ in 2011 and my Mother’s death I went into a downward spiral. I took voluntary redundancy and spent time doing the self-reflection that I had avoided for so long. This along with working on our second book, ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ was the best therapy I could ever have asked for.
Today I feel I can help others learn from the journey I took and the many ways in which I avoided doing the work that was necessary for growth. I understand just how difficult it is to overcome the impacts of abuse, but I also know that it is possible. If I can do it anyone can.