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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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'He didn't value that we were actually human beings, it was like a nightmare.'

Mary Manning was repeatedly abused by her stepfather.

CLJfox3WgAAluln Source: O'Brien Press

A WOMAN HAS shared her story of escaping the control of an abusive stepfather, who got her pregnant three times before she was finally able to flee the country.

Mary Manning’s father died in a petrol station fire when she was just nine years old. Her mother – an alcoholic – had married a new man within a year. He moved in with Mary and her siblings.

She details the experience in her book, Nobody Will Believe You.

“I would remember feeling there was something not right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” she told The Brendan O’Connor Show on RTÉ Radio 1, “I knew my Alsatian didn’t like him, and for me that was a good indicator.”

She had noticed the man paid more attention to her than her siblings, giving her extra money or making her sit on his knee. Mary was around 11 when he first abused her.

“I remember him coming into the bathroom,” she recalled, “His whole frame filled the door. There was no way for me to escape.”

I tried to tell my mother [...] I didn’t really understand, as a young girl, what this was. It wasn’t that I could say he was abusing me.

By the time Mary was 16, she was pregnant, something her stepfather had said he would do to her.

She didn’t understand what was happening at the time; her stomach started swelling, and she complained of it becoming hard and that she vomited frequently, but it wasn’t until a doctor’s visit at six months did it become apparent.

Due to the man’s massive control over Mary, she was unable to tell her mother that he was the father.

His actions were down to a need for this control, she explained;

It was do with possession. He didn’t value people’s lives, he didn’t value that we were actually human beings. It was like a nightmare.
Nobody asked questions, and yet there was always a sense that people knew something was wrong. It wasn’t a house that was an open house, where people could come in and out. Very few people called in.

“It’s hard to get across the terror.”

The man eventually moved Mary to a house in Castleknock when her second child was born, and she was soon pregnant again, where she lived like a “prisoner”.

“It was one of the most horrific times in my life.”

It was with the help of a neighbour who had noticed how nervous and on edge Mary was she was able to finally escape. After deciding to get “as far away from Ireland” as she could, the neighbour helped Mary to travel to the United States.

However, she had to leave her children behind.

What happened the kids at that point, because of my mother drinking, and the instability of the house, they took the kids into care. It was absolutely horrendous.

During her time in the United States the children were never out of her mind. To escape this, “to try to stop my mind”, Mary ended up becoming heavily involved in drugs and alcohol, and was hospitalised on several occasions.

Today, Mary’s life is more positive. While she was unable to escape her stepfather’s abuse when she arrived home, she went to his funeral when he died to tell herself “I’m not like that” and started to get her life back on track with the help of her partner Karl, now her husband.

While she doesn’t believe her abuser is at peace, Mary says she is “most of the time” now. She now works as psychotherapist, and was able to start a new family with Karl and two of her first children moved back in.

But would she describe her life as fixed?

I don’t like the word fixed. I never got justice in this country, that peace. There’s missing pieces in my life there have been no answers to. Closure is something with an ending, and mine hasn’t had an ending… but I can now experience happiness.

Read: In Ireland, a man can actually confess to rape and still serve no time in prison >

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About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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