Sinead Lay. Picture: Aishling Byrne
A Kildare woman awarded €300,000 in damages at the High Court, who claimed that she was sexually assaulted by a former neighbour at the age of 14, says the money does not mean anything as the man is not in jail.
Monasterevin-based, Sinead Lay (32), moved from Tallaght to County Kildare, with her parents and siblings, when she was about 13 years of age.
The High Court, which made the award last Friday, May 24, heard how a former neighbour and family friend from Tallaght, Fergus Delaney, who is now residing at Allendale Lawns, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, allegedly began to sexually assault Ms Lay between November 2000 and August 2001, following contact by text message and grooming of the girl. Mr Delaney did not contest the case.
As reported in the Irish Times, the judge said that in August 2001, Mr Delaney collected the girl from school and drove to an isolated spot in the Curragh where a sexual assault took place. The judge said the girl’s mother became concerned about who was texting her daughter and Ms Lay told her mother what had happened and they went to the gardaí.
A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but a decision was made not to prosecute. Ms Lay’s legal representatives subsequently issued civil proceedings.
Ms Lay says at the time of the alleged sexual assault she was lonely, after moving from Dublin to Kildare, and claims that Mr Delaney persuaded her to return to school in Dublin.
The dental nurse, who has been in a relationship for the past four years, and is a mother to a teenage son, says that she suffered many years of severe depression after .
Ms Lay says that passing the Curragh still brings memories back to her.
She said: “I got a fright at the time, it hurt me. I would make myself sick. I did not get professional help until I was an adult. I was depressed and suicidal, I was not able to work for years — I could not face the day, open the curtains. I had an anxiety of crowds and people, of going outside.”
Ms Lay says that the alleged sexual assaults she suffered not only impacted her but led to her parents’ break-up and her leaving home at the age of 16, when she was pregnant.
She raised her son, with the assistance of his father, and they separated when she was in her twenties.
She said: “I suffer from depression, I am on medication, I will be for the rest of my life. I can’t stand the sight of gorse flowers in the Curragh, and I pass it every day. I am trying to practice mindfulness.”
Ms Lay hopes that by going public, she will help parents to realise the importance of keeping communication open with their children.
She said: “Parents should look out for a change in their child. I was making myself sick, my schoolwork went downhill. Keep communicating with your child, monitor their social media. Parents are so tired from work, they don’t get time to sit down and talk. Stay in communication, even if it is fighting, at least the communication is open. Trust your gut instincts.”
She says that as a result of the abuse, she attempted to take her own life at 15, and later in adulthood again. Ms Lay says that she can never forgive Mr Delaney for what he put her through and says that having her son has helped her to forgive herself. She would like to see the court system made more accessible for victims of sexual abuse, stating that she first went into a solicitor’s office, six years ago, and the case was only heard last Friday.
Ms Lay said: “If the length of time was cut to get to court, I think more people would go to court.”