A Woman who claims that she was raped by an IRA man and subsequently forced to endure an IRA “investigation”, will tell a BBC NI Spotlight documentary tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 10:35 that she was made to go into a room and confront her alleged abuser.
That woman, Máiría Cahill is my friend. We make an unlikely pairing, considering our diverse backgrounds, her great Uncle was once the chief of staff of an organisation which murdered my sister, and tried to murder my father. We also have diverse views. But, just as she supported me when I campaigned for the SPAD changes (Ann’s law), I am fully behind her in her tough decision to waive her anonymity.
It isn’t easy for any victim of abuse to waive the legal lifetime entitlement to anonymity – and I know it wasn’t an easy decision for her. But I also know that she cares deeply about the issue of child sexual abuse, and equally so, that no one should have to suffer in silence. I am sure that her decision will help other victims.
Speaking out publicly has been a brave and courageous move, it should give hope to many men and women who have been abused – not only by sexual abusers who seek to control victims to keep them silent – but also by people in positions of authority who seek for the truth to remain hidden.
My friend has always told me that the truth is the most powerful thing a person can have. And she will tell it. And it’s never easy for her to do so because like any abuse victim, speaking brings everything back.
Yesterday when I tweeted about tomorrow night’s BBCNI Spotlight programme the usual disgusting tweets came back. It happens every time I tweet about anything to do with republicanism. There was no concern for how this alleged abuse was handled, or for the young woman – who was a 16 year old child when it started – but a full on further abuse of the victim from people who claim to be republican. I don’t know why I was surprised. What else would they do, only try to deflect from their collective shameful behaviour on this issue. I’m not going to link to them here, because I don’t wish to upset any victim of abuse by doing so.
Fortunately for Mairia, the support she has, and will receive, is overwhelming, across the board – and from republicans also, who are sick sore and tired of repeated denials, and who don’t wish to be tarred with the one brush.
As I say, I consider Mairia Cahill a friend. For the past number of years I have listened to her and supported her on her journey where she desperately tried to achieve justice in order ‘to hold people accountable for what happened to her. I have also witnessed her supporting many others, including myself. She is a kind hearted and courageous young woman, and I have no doubt when people see tomorrow night’s Spotlight documentary, they will be horrified at what she was put through. I am looking forward to watching it myself, because I realise that finally, she will use her voice to tell her own experience.
Hopefully by using that voice, it will encourage anyone who has experienced similar to take heart, not be afraid, and to come forward in whatever way is comfortable for them to do so in order to take control back over their lives, and not allow those who abused them to have power over them any longer.