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'This will not define me': Abuse survivor encourages others to speak out

Charlene Masterson was sexually assaulted by her father for over seven-and-a-half years. He was jailed today.

Charlene Masterson.
Charlene Masterson.
Image: RTÉ News

A WOMAN WHO was sexually abused by her father for more than seven years has said she is “determined” to not let it destroy the rest of her life and encouraged others to speak out about abuse.

Earlier today, David Masterson (56) was jailed for 17 years.  He pleaded guilty to offences relating to his daughter Charlene between 2007 and 2014 including oral rape, sexual assault and incest.

Charlene Masterson (32) said she has waived her right to anonymity “to encourage other people that have been through something similar to speak out”.

Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice this morning, she said: “I hope I’m an example to anyone else out there that they can get to the other side of it and I know it’s a very very dark tunnel at times but there is light at the end of it.”

Masterson told RTÉ News that she is “determined that this will not define me”. 

“It has destroyed my life. It destroyed from the age of 18, maybe even prior, to when I was 25,” she said. 

I’m very determined to not let it destroy the rest of my life. I’m very determined to enjoy my life, and I have.

“I’ve had some great years the last few years. I’m not saying I don’t have down days, 100%, everyone does. Even that having gone through something like this, but it doesn’t have to define you.”

She said people can fear that “no one will believe me”, but she emphasised the support she received from family and friends after she spoke out about the abuse. 

“You’ll actually be really surprised of the support and the people that will support you. It certainly shocked me. I knew I had a great group of friends. I would have said I had a really small group of friends – that support has spanned massively, even from people that I haven’t heard from in years.”

She added: “If your friends and family are your friends and family they will stand by you and they will support you no matter what direction this goes down.” 

Masterson encouraged people to report abuse “when you’re ready, which is what I did”. 

“You don’t need to report it straight away [however] I would encourage people to, because if we don’t it’s not going to  help others and that’s why I did what I did and that’s why I’m waiving my anonymity.”

The court heard that David Masterson sent text messages under the guise of being another person to his daughter demanding that she engage in sexual acts with men.

When Charlene showed the messages to her father, he told her that she would have to do these things because his job was at risk.

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She told RTÉ: “It’s very easy for someone outside of the situation to say ‘well, why didn’t you just tell someone’. I did – I told the one man that was supposed to protect me, and he didn’t.”

She reported the seven years of sexual abuse to her mother in 2014 and her father left the family home. 

The Central Criminal Court heard that afterwards he went on to defile three girls, having sexual encounters with two teenage girls and entering into a sexual relationship with a third, who lived with him for a period of time.

“I know on victim support groups on social media and that that people have gone on to have children and families, and they’re another example of why it isn’t the end. You can have an absolutely fulfilled life and a happy life. Don’t let one person ruin it for you,” Masterson said. 

“You can rebuild your life after something like this. It’s not easy, I’m not going to say that it’s easy,  but you absolutely can do it. Even with the smallest bit of determination you can 100% rebuild your life.”

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour Helpline is 1800-778888

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