This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 16 December, 2018
Advertisement

'You sent me home bleeding, traumatised ... but I'm a survivor': Leona O’Callaghan's powerful victim impact statement

Leona O’Callaghan was groomed and raped by Patrick O’Dea when she was a child.

File photo of a young woman's silhouette.
File photo of a young woman's silhouette.
Image: Shutterstock/Tamara Borgia

Trigger warning: This article discusses rape, sexual assault and suicide 

A WOMAN HAS detailed the impact being groomed and raped as a child had and continues to have on her life.

Patrick O’Dea (51), also known as ‘Whacker’, of Pike Avenue, Limerick, was today sentenced to 17 years in jail for the crimes he committed against Leona O’Callaghan.

Leona waived her right to anonymity so O’Dea could be publicly named.

He pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial at the Central Criminal Court to charges of sexual assault and rape on dates in 1994 and 1995.

O’Dea is already serving 15 years in prison for raping a different girl, and today’s sentence will run concurrently. 

O’Dea was 28 years old when he groomed a then 12-year-old Leona before eventually raping her in a graveyard. He continued a sexual relationship with her after manipulating her and isolating her from her friends.

The court heard that following the first incident of rape, the young girl sat on a basin of ice in her bedroom to help stop the bleeding and swelling.

Leona later recalled that O’Dea told her she had bled because she was a virgin and he promised it would not hurt as much the next time.

In a powerful victim impact statement, Leona told the court how this traumatic series of events impacted her relationships with her loved ones, and led to three suicide attempts.

She said O’Dea left her “confused, ashamed, traumatised” but that she is a survivor, not a victim. 

She said: “I stand here today and reluctantly give you your last bit of power by admitting that, yes, you did manage to tear me down and impact my life more than any other person I’ve ever known.

However, I do not just stand here as a victim, I stand as a survivor who is strong, kind and trying their very best to begin a life you held back from me for many years.

Below is her full victim impact statement:

I was asked to make a statement about How my life has been affected by the sexual abuse I went through at the hands of Patrick O’Dea. This is going to be one of the hardest things to do but I will try to express my ongoing pain as best I can.

A huge part of me knows that abuse is about having power and that part of me wants nothing more than to stand up her look him in the eye and tell him he did not win, to say that despite his efforts my life has been fine, that I don’t think about what he did every day and try minimise the power he feels he has.

However, I cannot do that, simply because it is not the truth.

As much as I hate to admit it, the things he did to me brought and still does bring me to my knees. Although I stand here shaking I also stand here ready for the first time as an adult to address him directly.

Whacker, there’s a lot of focus in this process about the times you were there to find me at my most innocent and most vulnerable stage as a child, but these were far from the only times that you were there to bring me pain.

You were the first man in my life that told me you loved me. As a young child you manipulated my mind into believing that the disgusting things you did to me you did out of love. This forever messed with my mind and your warped version of ‘love equals pain’ remained in my life long after you left it.

The physical pain that you put me through in that dark graveyard and shed was terrifying. After using my small innocent body to satisfy your own needs you sent me home bleeding, sore, confused, ashamed, traumatised and sworn to secrecy.

Some of those nights I went home and cried into my pillow, others I went home and picked fights with my family as I was angry but had no idea why. Another time I went home, snuck a basin of ice into my attic bedroom to sit in to try take down the swelling and immense pain I was in. The memory of silently sitting in that basin of blood stained ice wondering if the bleeding would ever stop was one of the hardest memories you gave me.

Walking back down the stairs as if nothing had happened and trying to act normal was just as difficult. That night I said ‘no’ I was only a child and you were an adult man. You held me down against my will and taught me that what I wanted and didn’t want did not matter. You taught me that fighting back only made things worse.

I soon learnt to go along with it, to do what you ask, to ‘zone out’, close my eyes and pray that it’s over soon and I get to stop feeling the pain and disgust.

Now 20 years later I still don’t get to fully escape, I don’t get a choice about remembering because my mind takes me there when I’m alone, when I close my eyes and try and fail to feel safe within myself.

Although rape is a physical assault, the worst damage that you did was not to my body but to my mind. You began your manipulation long before you put a hand on me. In order to get me to a place where I would keep your dirty secrets, you isolated me from the people I loved and got inside my mind in a way I still don’t fully understand.

You alienated me from friends, telling me that they were all saying nasty things about me when my back was turned. You had me believe that my older sister’s soul went black every time I was around her and that she was full of hatred for me.

You cleverly told me about the times my parents confided in you about how disappointed in me they were, how they were responsible for the death of my cousin and how they wished I was like their other their kids.

You slowly but surely turned me against everyone that loved me and made me paranoid about their motives until the only person that I felt genuinely cared about me and the only person I could trust was you.

It took 28 years before therapy helped me see that this was all based on lies to manipulate, groom and isolate me so I would keep your secret and have nowhere to turn.

The effect on me caused a massive divide between me and my family, made me feel lonely, alone, paranoid and unable to trust people for many years. I felt different to all my friends and lived what felt like a double life throughout my teens.

‘Cheap, dirty and broken’

I felt responsible for the disgusting things you did, especially on occasions when I didn’t say ‘no’. I felt cheap, dirty and broken. I became a difficult teen who went on to move out of home early and have a teenage pregnancy. I developed unhealthy relationships as you were my only teacher about the warped version of love that you had me believe was between us.

To this day I’m not sure I truly know what genuine love is because you got inside my mind and you messed it up. You convinced me you could see into the future and bad things were going to happen to me if you weren’t around to protect me.

For a long time you had me scared out of my wits. The false care and protection I had from you gave me a huge sense of loyalty to you. This loyalty made me feel like what we had was never abuse but was an inappropriate relationship that was my fault.

I felt the horrible things you did I brought on myself. I have blamed and hated myself for as long as I can remember. How I wish I could see then what I see now. How I wish I could go back and give that paranoid frightened child a hug and tell her how loved she actually was and give her back the trust in her family and friends that you took away.

How I wish I told my mam and dad the truth, how much you were hurting me, how much I was only pretending every day like I was ok, maybe then it would have stopped sooner, even one less disgusting memory of you would make life as I knew it easier.

They say you are as sick as your secrets, and you made me very, very sick for a long time.

You returned to Limerick about 5 years ago bringing back all the memories and hurt as if it had been only yesterday. I’m sure you remember I confronted you and asked you to leave, and when you didn’t I completely broke down.

Today I peel off that mask of a life only me and you know about, my voice may tremble but I stand here revealing our secrets that you had me carry and that I hated myself for.

When it comes to self-hatred this is where most of the damage you did to me hurt me. You weren’t just there in a dark scary graveyard invading my body, you were also there in the mirror when I looked at myself. I hated myself and the dirty person that you made me feel I was, that nobody cared about.

You were there in my mind every time I took a blade to my body to hurt and cut myself hundreds of times to punish myself for the horrible person I became. You were there in my mind when I thought saying ‘no’ to anything sexual wasn’t even an option whether I wanted it or not.

‘My skin often crawled when my husband tried to touch me’

You and memories of you were there in my mind for many years every time I closed my eyes. You were there between the sheets when my skin often crawled when my husband tried to touch me, be intimate or make love to me. When I did manage to overcome this and try to be a normal woman and be intimate, you were there the following day when I felt like a dirty slut and felt unjustified anger against my husband.

When I was growing up I was quite troubled. Life with me wasn’t easy for my parents or my siblings. I needed a lot more energy than the others and I still hold guilt for the chaos and attention I brought to my family home because I didn’t feel understood.

My anger and jealousy at what seemed like the perfect childhood the others had didn’t end when I left home to live on my own at 17. Life continued to be hard going to school while working to pay my own rent and I continued to feel isolated and alone. My suicide attempts caused by this pain put my children and family through hell.

The real me is warm and caring but you made me a fighter, you gave me anger and hatred and sadness and fear and isolation and shame and guilt and loneliness. Today I give this back, as it belongs with you.

When I tried to rebuild my relationship with my parents and family your words were there making me feel like I couldn’t trust them and like they hated me.

When I went on holidays, had my children, when I developed PTSD and depression, you, what you did, the things you had me believe, stayed with me long after the abuse stopped.

When I started suffering flashbacks and panic attacks, dissociated, wet myself and lost my mind somewhat it was because you were there. When my small children had to be given explanations about what was happening to me, you were the person responsible for them ending up carrying something that was too big for their little shoulders.

I often wonder what kind of mother I would be and what kind of childhood my kids would have had if you had not raped, molested and manipulated me. My kids would have had a better life if you hadn’t messed my mind up.

I would have been able to give my three amazing kids the kind of mother that they desperately deserved. I would have been more stable, they would not be filled with memories of a depressed, unwell mum who was in and out of hospital. Maybe I would have been able to feel good enough as a mother and not carry the regret of the experience my childhood trauma and ongoing depression has on their lives.

If it wasn’t for you I would have been a better mum, a better wife, a better daughter, sister and friend. Instead, I am often the messed up, broken person that you made me and there are still more days than not that I hate who I am.

Suicide attempts

After years of feeling unwell I began to realise that the only real way to be out of pain and to stop dragging down the people I loved was to end it all.

You were there in my mind on the three occasions [I attempted suicide] and finally let all this be over…

I cannot fight the traumatic memories you gave me that torments my mind. You were the doubt in my head that I could ever be well, which had me in and out of psychiatric units. You are the reason my kids’ memory of Christmas Day 2015 was opening their presents in a psych unit with a mum who had lost the will to live…

The hurt you caused me resulted in me hurting them by making them feel like they aren’t enough for their mum to stay alive. I’ll never fully forgive myself for making them feel that way, they deserved so much more.

I had finally met someone that I loved in the best way I knew how in 2006 and we got married in 2009. However, my happy ever after hopes were short-lived as the stress, depression, suicide attempts, self-harm, intimacy and instability took its toll on this. my second marriage, and he had had enough.

I can’t say I blame him as if I could have walked out on the messed-up person I had became then I would have probably walked away too.

I’m now 37. I have two failed marriages. I’m a single parent on disability allowance. I need antidepressants every day to help me function. Life has not turned out how I hoped and although you are not the only factor that caused this, you certainly are the root cause of where it keeps going wrong.

You did not only affect and hurt one person in this – you affected and damaged the life of my parents, my siblings, my children and husband.

It is only in the past two years that I have learned that ending the pain is possible without ending my life. That there is possibly a way of putting all this behind me. A way of handing you back the guilt¨ the shame, the secrets, the self-hatred and distrust that should never have been mine to carry.

This has been a hard process in coming forward legally, from making statements that forced me to jog my memory about the detail of the disgusting events I spent years trying to forget, to many interviews with the guards, to rehashing the hurt for others involved, to speaking openly here in front of strangers, returning to the graveyard with the detective to pinpoint where it all happened and then to face you here and prepare for trial.

You had a choice to make that easier by admitting what you did but you added hurt to hurt by choosing not to. You dragged me, my family, my kids, my heart and my mind through all of this again by not admitting what you did when you were first arrested. Instead I had to watch you claim you were innocent of all charges as if I was some sort of liar.

Likewise when you first returned to Limerick four years ago, I asked you to do the decent thing and leave again as seeing you around the streets was making it so much harder. You added insult to injury by coming back and refusing to leave even after I told you I couldn’t handle you being around me.

You continued to hurt me as if the hurt you caused me as a child wasn’t enough.

I stand here today and put my faith in the court to hold you to account for what you did. I pray it will be a very long time before you are left walk the same streets as me open to repeat your acts on any other vulnerable child. I wouldn’t wish the damage you have caused me on my worst enemy.

I ask you judge to consider the effects I’ve outlined today and I put my blind faith in you to hold Patrick O’Dea to account with an appropriate sentence. I really am hoping that I will not feel let down and that putting me and my family through this difficult process won’t be for nothing and will be reflected in your sentence.

Whacker, I stand here today and reluctantly give you your last bit of power by admitting that, yes, you did manage to tear me down and impact my life more than any other person I’ve ever known.

However, I do not just stand here as a victim, I stand as a survivor who is strong, kind and trying their very best to begin a life you held back from me for many years.

I have three amazing kids that I see every day. I’m proud that, despite you, I survived the childhood trauma at your hand. I got 515 points in my Leaving Cert, worked hard, set up my own businesses and I remain an honest, loving person with integrity.

I have not and will not use you as a reason not to try my utmost to have the life I was entitled to without your abuse, some days I fail miserably with this and some days I succeed. I am beginning to finally try put this behind me and like who I am again.

I’m becoming the mother my kids deserve to have, and my future is looking brighter.

So, in a nutshell, despite standing here with my heart on my sleeve and admitting the effect you have had on me, let me be clear, you did not win.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

Need help? Support is available:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Helplines:

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Sonya McClean

Read next:

COMMENTS (16)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel