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'By going public I wanted to tell other abuse victims they're not to blame'

In a new six-part documentary series, Sophia Murphy talks about how she came to terms with her father’s conviction for her sexual abuse.

Source: TG4/YouTube

SOPHIA MURPHY’S FIRST memory of being abused by her father was at the back of a bus in Galway. She was three or four-years-old at the time.

Although this is her first memory of the abuse, she does not believe this was the first time.

“There were lads standing outside the bus and I was a bit nervous that they’d see what Dad was doing and I just remember he slid my underwear to one side and started fondling with me on the bus and all I kept thinking was they were going to see him.

I knew it was wrong because I was more worried they’d see him, I wasn’t even thinking about what he was doing to me so in my head it’s obvious that that wasn’t the first time. That was my first memory. I was an adult before I was even a child.

In the first episode of the new series of TG4′s Finné, Sophia Murphy speaks of how she came to terms with her father’s 2018 conviction for her sexual abuse as a child.

She said that by going public after the conviction she wanted to send a message to others who have been abused: “You are not to blame, it’s your abuser who destroyed you and put you in this position. Don’t blame yourself.”

You don’t have to go public, you don’t have to go down that road to get the help you need, but just to be able to say it to somebody: ‘I have been sexually abused’. It’s powerful to be able to say those words. You don’t realise what it takes from you to be able to say ‘I’m a victim of sexual abuse’. Whether it be to look at yourself in the mirror and say it, to say it to someone else, if you just tell yourself it’s not your fault.

This is the second series of Finné, after a successful first run that won this year’s Human Rights prize at the Justice Media Awards. The documentary series, produced by Tua Films and presented by RTÉ correspondent Orla O’Donnell features the stories of a number of Irish people who have been through difficult times and come out the other end. 

“What’s really powerful about Finné is that it’s the people telling their stories themselves. It’s obviously directed and produced but it really is just the person at the centre of the story telling it straight down the lens and I think that gives it a power other programmes don’t have,” O’Donnell told TheJournal.ie.

When she conducted the interviews with those featured in the series, she sat behind a curtain so they would deliver their words looking at the camera as if speaking directly to the audience. 

“The theme is really dictated by who is willing to speak to us but it’s stories of inspiration and courage and redemption. People who have come through something very difficult. Sophia is an astonishing person because she can talk about it in a way not everyone who has been through it can, it wreaks havoc on people’s lives. So you get an insight from Sophia that you might not have heard. 

One thing she talked to us about was how, when he was sentenced, she was feeling sorry for him. He was the person who looked after her, he was her father, so she had this dilemma in her head – she hated him but she loved him. 

The second episode in the series focuses on the issue of gambling addiction with an interview with former Post Office manager Tony O’Reilly. He stole €1.75 million from An Post and gambled €10 million through one Paddy Power betting account before being sent to prison.

IMG_4598 Orla O'Donnell (centre) with Sophia Murphy (left) and Amy Dunne (right).

The series will also feature an episode with Amy Dunne, also known as Miss D, who fought through the courts to be allowed to travel to the UK in 2007 for an abortion after she was received a fatal foetal diagnosis. She was just 17-years-old at the time.

“Her private tragedy became public discourse,” O’Donnell said. “That was only 12 years ago. She describes what happened after she won the case and it’s really shocking. She went to England and she only had six hours afterwards before she had to get back on a plane. At the airport on the way there she felt everyone would know who she was, a young girl with a bump going to England. 

The way Finné works, it gives people time to tell their stories. Amy and her mum speak in the programme and they’re able to get some things off their chest, like the way they were portrayed throughout the court case – that she was in care and her mother was an alcoholic. The truth of course, was much more nuanced, Amy talks about how that was a short period in her life where she went off the rails and a time when her mother needed help. 

“The people we spoke to really are inspiring. I’m not one for gushing about people – I’ve seen a lot in my job – but the strength of their characters is amazing.  You would think it’ll be grim but really they are kind of hopeful in the end.”

Orla O’Donnell presents Season two of the award-winning documentary series Finné from Wednesday 2 October at 9.30pm for six weeks as part of TG4’s Wednesday documentary season

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