A woman who was raped by her brother-in-law has said she “lost everything” as a result of the prolonged sexual abuse.
Bartholomew ‘Batty’ Prendergast (65) was this week convicted of the sexual assault and rape of Stephanie Hickey (46), her sister Deirdre Fahy (52) and another woman over the course of 12 years.
A priest had told one of the victims the paedophile was ‘fixed’ after receiving counselling, but the sexual abuse continued.
Ms Hickey, who along with Ms Fahy waived her right to anonymity so that Prendergast could be named, said that she “lost everything” as a result of the abuse.
“I lost those beautiful memories young girls have when they hit 12 or 13 becoming a teenager and your first crush which I know all young girls love.
“He started being really nice, but I suppose as a child I didn’t see the danger because he was my brother-in-law and he was an adult and I felt this was ok, this was normal,” Ms Hickey told Eamon Keane on WLRFM.
She was first sexually abused by Prendergast, her sister’s husband, at the age of 12 and it continued up to her teenage years until she was 16.
“When I was around 12, I used to visit them [her sister and Batty] for the weekends or throughout the summer and he would collect me or arrange to pick me up at my parents and transport me to Tallow,” she said.
Ms Hickey said as Prendergast would be working in Dungarvan County Council it was easier for him to pick her up and take her to her sister’s house to help with housework or work in her sister’s hairdressing shop in Tallow.
As a result of the abuse also taking place on journeys, and at other locations around Co Waterford, she never wanted to be left alone in the van, car or lorry with him.
Describing what she felt when being abused for the first time, she said it was hard to say.
“I can’t actually describe the feeling… frightening, just in disbelief but he always led me to believe this was ok and it was normal and that no one would believe me, he was the adult and I was the child and it was our secret,” she said.
Ms Hickey went on to describe her feelings as the abuse continued.
“The fear, the shame, the hurt, the anger, but I was frozen – I couldn’t, and I knew I couldn’t, control this,” she said.
“I didn’t have the courage to speak out because again he was the adult, people looked up to him including my family, who would have seen him as this pillar of society, if you would like to call it.”
She said her sister Deirdre, who was also abused by Prendergast, is carrying a lot of guilt that if she had spoken up then maybe she could have protected her.
“That is a hard thing for my sister Deirdre to carry, I love her and I don’t blame her one bit for what has happened to me.
“She didn’t have anyone to protect her but she got out because she was older and she met Kieran, who is now her husband, and he saved her because she was able to leave that situation and I was the next sibling, so it moved on to me,” Ms Hickey said.
“I always dreamed that if the day did come and I did get to speak up and my voice be heard that I could go forward in helping other woman, men, young girls and young boys going through or had being going through similar situations.
“I still think the stigma that is attached to this has to change and I want the law to change on the anonymity.”
Prendergast will be sentenced in November for the sexual abuse and rape of the sisters and a third woman over the course of 12 years.