41-year-old John Paul Hegarty of Co Cork, Ireland, was convicted and sentenced to jail for 7 years for repeatedly raping his youngest sister Nora Hegarty.
The rape took place at their family home in the 1990s in Glanmire, Co Cork, Ireland. He was aged between 15 and 18 and she was aged between 9 and 12.
In a bid to encourage other victims of interfamilial abuse to come forward, Nora Hegarty, who is now 35, wanted her brother to be identified for what he did to her during her formative years. She waived her right to anonymity in the case.
According to her: “I did nothing wrong but all through my life I felt it was me in the wrong. I was not going to be silenced anymore. I did this for all the people out there in the same situation as me. I did it for all of them so that they might have the courage to speak out. I want to say to people in my situation ‘Don’t be afraid. You will never know the strength you have until you actually need it.”
Nora Hegarty said was raped by her brother on an almost daily basis for three years.
During her victim impact statement, she spoke extensively of the anguish she underwent and how it derailed her life.
“There are no winners in all of this. All I wanted to do is to hand all the hurt, pain and anger I’ve been living with all these years to the person that caused it all. I can’t live with that pain anymore.”
“I played happy families so much that I ended up as bridesmaid at his wedding. I knew what John Paul was doing. He was trying to make sure his dirty secret didn’t get out again.”
“It breaks my heart that there are families torn apart from all of this, but I couldn’t go on suffocating.”
She continued: “John Paul took my childhood from me and I can never get it back. In fact, he destroyed my whole life. Because John Paul began sexually abusing me at such a young age all I am left with is horrible dark memories, feelings of being scared, of not understanding what was happening to me.”
She said she used to “hope and pray” her brother would leave her alone on any given day.
“Memories of my body and mind being so programmed just to lie there and stay quiet while he abused me on such a frequent basis. I feared sleep. I tried to stay awake but would eventually fall asleep waking up again in sweats. To this day I have to have a light on when I sleep and wake up in sweats.”
She told the court she suffered severe depression and anxiety and the abuse ended only when she started menstruating because her brother did not want to impregnate her. On her 30th birthday, she reported the matter to Gardai (the state police force of the Irish Republic) as she couldn’t live with it any longer.
John Paul Hegarty was convicted last October of 19 counts of rape, one count of oral rape, and four sexual assaults by a jury at a Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork. He was found not guilty of the 25th count on the indictment of anal rape.
The verdicts of the jury were not accepted by John Paul Hegarty.
The Judge on the case – Ms. Justice Murphy, said that by not showing any remorse or responsibility for his actions, he had refused the most significant mitigation in a sentence for sexual crimes.
The jury was unanimous in the 23 guilty verdicts against John Paul Hegarty, who now begins an eight-year sentence, with one suspended.
He denied raping his younger sister over the three-year period. After deliberations, the jury found John Paul Hegarty guilty on 23 counts.
“I am annoyed and hurt that John Paul did not plead guilty so that I would not have to go through a trial. He was found guilty and the truth is finally out” Nora said.
Ending her victim impact statement, Nora Hegarty thanked her mother who gave evidence where her daughter was a victim and her son the perpetrator. She also thanked her friends, family, the police, and her legal team for all their help. She added: “I would not have done it without any of you. You believed in me and helped me carry on. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
In closing, Ms. Justice Murphy expressed sympathy for “all of the people damaged” by what he had inflicted on his youngest sibling.