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Lorna & Finola

Thanks to Heidi Majander, one of the women who volunteered on this project, I had the pleasure of meeting Finola.  Finola has donated loads of time and energy to supporting victims of crime, particularly victims of rape and sexual assult, through an organization called Victim Support.  Finola suggested that, instead of just interviewing her, that I also interview one of the women she supported in court.  The result was two wonderful and intense evenings of conversation with these two remarkable, brave women -- talking about women's experiences of taking cases before the court, the changes that need to be made in this system, and what it means to be an activist.


MT:   OK, I guess the first thing is to decide if you want to say your names or if you just wanna say something about yourself?

L:  I’ve been really confused about that because... because I feel if you feel strongly about something you shouldn’t have a problem.  At the same time though I just kind of...  but yes I will.  Yeah.  I don’t mind.   No.  Absolutely.  I’m Lorna.

MT:  And you?

F:  My name’s Finola.

MT:  OK, that was probably the hardest question that we’ll have.  Lorna, if you would first give the details of the case that you were involved in last year.

L:  It was a sexual assault case.  It all derived from being at a party with people whom I would have perceived to have been close friends. And I had too much to drink and went to bed.  And everybody went home and that’s when the sexual assault took place.  At this guy’s own house. With his wife in their bedroom and his two children next door.  So...

Between fighting him off and conniving to get out of there it was very, very scary.  It was not a kind of situation you feel you can push your way out of because it’s wicked.  There’s a sense of determination there.  So after getting myself out of the situation and phoning my boyfriend he came around to the house and confronted this guy -- I don’t know what to call him.  And so consequently Andrew was one of the key witnesses.

MT:  That’s your boyfriend.

L:  Yeah, that was my boyfriend at the time.  Which was very beneficial in the long run and when it all happened we didn’t realise that that was going to be the situation.  And apparently that’s just changed quite lately.  That the first person on the scene or the first person to listen to a victim becomes a key witness.  So it was good.  It was good that Andrew confronted him.  He was like, “What did you do to my girlfriend?”   So from there on in there were plenty of visits down to the police station, statements, racking your brain trying to remember faint scenarios, put under test by policemen, by ourselves even.  And just watching it unfold very slowly, very, very, slowly.

MT:  What was the approximate time from when the assault happened till the case went to court?

L:  Approximately a year.  Which I am led to believe is a pretty short amount of time.  Definitely John, the garda that was looking after the case, thought it came up very quickly.  He was kind of informing me of a lot of details after they’d happen rather than before they’d happen.  I think he just reckoned that if we can come back and give her the facts and update her then, it causes less trauma.  Which I think was good.

F:  He was very supportive.  Before, during and after.  He still is.

L:  He thought about it.  He even admitted that it’s kind of like...  It was a case that he learnt a lot from because he had to look at the emotional side.  He ended up working so closely with us as opposed to just the facts and the clinical data that they have to get their hands on, and produce and mull over.  And it all becomes very surreal.  So I think that was very interesting for him from that point of view.  So we were very close with him throughout the whole thing and he was like “I know that I can believe you and Andrew.”  And he was really honest with me the whole way through, didn’t try to disguise anything, and at the same time I feel that he was really relying on me to keep it together as well.  Yeah.

MT:  So, do you wanna talk a bit about the experience of the court procedures and what that felt like?  Sort of what happened?

L:  Knowing that it was just looming, hanging over me for so long was just so traumatic.  Just everything goes through your head.  You think about it, you remember tv programmes, you know that a lot of what you’re thinking is probably a load of nonsense, but there’s no way of pinpointing what are the facts, how nasty are they going to be in court to you?  You don’t know anything about it other than what you’ve seen on the movie-screen or on tv, so that kind of leads you to believe that you’re leading yourself up the garden path anyhow.

But going to court was a rude awakening.  I was in Wicklow County Court, which is far from a well kept building, not to put too fine a point on it.  And I arrived down, on time, so nervous and there was a mill of people.  You don’t know who’s guilty, who’s innocent, who’s part of the  jury.  You don’t know anything.  There’s people in suits walking around looking as though they know what they are doing, so you know that they are barristers or solicitors.  On account of the judicial system over here, I didn’t know what my solicitor or barrister looked like so I was just standing there basically waiting for Finola to come in and explain to us the details.  So it’s traumatic.

And then with that, the guy who sexually assaulted me walked in and he’s in the same room and in the same proximity and I couldn’t get over that.  I just felt so threatened by it because he had his family around.  I just felt everything was so unfair.  He shouldn’t have had family and support there.  He’s not entitled to it, you know?  He’s entitled to nothing, that’s the way you feel.  And I felt that the whole way through up until the very, very end.  I felt as though that was all wrong.  The fact that he was allowed stand near me, the fact that he had the power to suit himself.  You just really think to yourself, “This is crazy.  I am standing here.  Nobody knows that I am a victim.  Nobody even cares.  This has been so much a part of my life.  I feel as though I’m losing my mind and I’m supposed to be standing here keeping it all together.  And now I’m standing in a room, right next to the guy who sexually assaulted me, who is without a shadow of a doubt going to get up and tell lies because he’s been lying the whole way through on statements that he had to make to the police...” And that’s just devastating.  That’s when you would feel like taking the law into your own hands and going ballistic.  It’s just such an insult as well.  It’s really bad.

Thankfully, Finola, knowing her stuff, asked John about a room for us, which a victim is entitled to, and John went about his business and found us a room.  Dingy as well, but it makes such a difference for your friends and family to be sitting in a room by yourselves and you can be as nervous or as apprehensive or, you know, you can fake the fact that you’re getting on with things and you’re going to do OK.  You can do whatever you want do in that room, and that makes a big difference because otherwise you just feel...  Especially with the paranoia that I felt ever since the sexual assault, and especially taking the decision that I was going to take it to the guards...  Paranoia is just primed at that stage.  You’re like a taut wire.  And in that really claustrophobic situation with people milling around, it’s terrible because your head is running wild. You’re just thinking, “Nobody knows why I’m here.  Do they know why I’m here?  Who are they?  Are they relations of his?”  And you don’t know anything.  So that was very important.   But we didn’t even get into the courtroom the first day.  We were told to go home.

MT:  Really?  They were too busy or something?

L:  Yeah.  And they were trying to see some more cases through first.

MT:  So you’re all worked up.

L:  You’re all worked up and then you’re told to go home and that is completely unreal.  You go home and you have to face it all the following day.  So then I thought there’d be loads of chatting and barristers nattering and...  but we just went into the courtroom and I’ll never forget it to this day.  We weren’t familiar with seating arrangements all of  a sudden he just walked in, and I was called up onto the stand.  Is that what you call it?  And I went the wrong way.  And I actually contemplated, “Will I climb over these chairs?”   But I had to make a decision.  Like, you’re trying to look as dignified as possible.  And I didn’t know which way to go, so I kind of did a little side-step and then decided, “Well I can’t climb over all these barristers and solicitors so I’d better go around the other way,” and with that I had to walk straight past W--.  And his wife.  And his family and everything.  You honestly get this feeling that you can’t walk past them quick enough because somebody is going to grab you, you know.  It’s terrible.  So then you’re trying to maintain any amount of dignity you have.  You’re trying  to tell yourself to calm down.   You’re trying to tell yourself that you can deal with it and you don’t know what’s going to happen.

So my barrister asked me the questions first and I answered them.  And then his barrister started asking me questions.  And I suppose due to all their kind of role playing and the, I suppose the whole essence of what they do, it’s like acting to a very big extent, and he wasn’t even looking at me when he was talking to me.  So because the acoustics are so bad, I ended up getting infuriated and saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear what you’re saying,” because he was trying to, I reckon, unnerve me and belittle me by...  because I was straining to listen to him.  And I suddenly thought, “Why am I doing this?  This is ignorance actually and I know what you’re doing.  I’m not stupid.”  So I remember saying that.  But then you reprimand yourself as well because you’re thinking, “Why am I thinking of ignorance and...”.  So your head is just in a...  It’s just like soup, it’s like pea-soup.  And that was really traumatic because you could see certain angles that he’s coming from because you’re not stupid and you know to an extent that his job is to trip you up.  So he’s dwelling on something and you’re just thinking, “What is the relevance of this?  How long are you going to keep plugging at this -- until you try to trip me up?  And are the jury stupid enough to think that this is going to work?  Or am I stupid enough and so hassled that it is going to work?”  So your head is full of loads of different thoughts and before I knew where I was it was over.  And Andrew was called up.

F:  That’s right yeah, he was next.

L:  And I remember not being able to hear loads of what was being said.  My partner and my boyfriend who had been through the whole thing with me, and I could hear what he was saying but I couldn’t hear what the barristers were asking him because their backs are turned to you.  And you feel like just standing up and going, “Excuse me, could you all just turn this way because I’m sitting here and this is about me and we need to hear and to hell with the accused here because it’s me that it’s about and I’m good and you’ve all got your backs to me.”  So that was bizarre, and I just felt hurt and annoyance the whole way through.  Sitting in the court, sitting on those hard benches.  I just really felt hurt and insulted and more and more degraded as the whole episode went along.

MT:  Did you at any point consider not going through with it?  Like either before you went to the guards or maybe after you went to the court the first day and got so frustrated?  Did you feel like just saying, “Screw this,” and walking out?

L:  Emotionally you take such a battering that you have up days and down days.  But some days would be even lower and on days like that you think, “What am I doing?  Am I going to be able to go through with it?  What if things don’t go, you know, the way they should go, the way I want them to go?  What happens if...” because you nothing about the judicial system, “...He gets some hot shot in and makes mincemeat of the statements?”  You don’t necessarily trust the state because you know nothing about them, the state prosecutor or the state barrister.  You know nothing about them and you know somewhere in the back of your head that he doesn’t know anything about you.  And again that’s really distressing.

MT:  Yeah, maybe now would be a good time to explain this whole system... You were saying before that you were actually technically just a witness for the state?

L:  Yeah, I wasn’t a victim at all, not seen as a victim.  I’m just a witness, a witness for the state.  And that is carried the whole way through with you until the very end.

MT:  So were you able to have any relationship with your lawyer? And what kind of relationship does the defendant have with his?

L:  I requested it, and I was told that unfortunately they were too busy, and that you’re not allowed even meet with the barrister, and I thought that was inane.  I was like, “Not even for a...  Don’t you even get to talk with them before...  on the day?”  And it was like, “No they’re not supposed to have anything to do with you.”  So there was nothing.

MT:  So had you ever even laid eyes on them before you were up there on the stand?

L:  Never.  And I had to trust this guy.

F:  They do normally though, Lorna.  They would normally have a consultation the morning of the trial.  But it could be just twenty minutes, half an hour, and that’s the first time you meet your barrister is the morning.

L:  I met him for about four minutes and I was actually told that he wasn’t supposed to.

F:  Well.  That’s not right because they do...  they will consult with you.  But it’s usually the morning of the case.  Sometimes there are barristers who will want to see the victim and go to the trouble of making an appointment maybe a week before going through your statement but that doesn’t happen very often unfortunately.  They keep their distance from their witnesses, the reason being that they could be accused of coaching a witness, leading a witness, if they do consult with you over a period of time before the trial.

MT:  So what about the defendant?   Would he have had more of an opportunity to visit with the publicly appointed lawyer?

F: Yes, the defendant would see his lawyer beforehand.  The whole onus of law in Ireland is that you’re innocent until proven guilty so therefore the burden on the state is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is guilty of this crime he’s been accused of.  But for a witness who’s going through a trial it is so obvious that the whole onus is trying to keep the defendant OK.  You know, they go overboard on his behalf...

L:  Most definitely.

F:  ...rather than on the witness’, the victim’s behalf.  And that feels...  I mean, I haven’t been a victim but I understand that that would make a victim so hurt, so angry.

L:  It’s devastating.

F:  You know, it really must be an awful thing.  You’re treated just as a witness up there, and once you’ve given your evidence and been cross examined, that’s the end of it.

MT:  So it’s almost like you’re supposed to be this outside party?

L:  You actually feel as though, because you get this sense that everything is working in his favour, you actually feel as though you’re being treated like a guilty party.  And that is the craziest feeling because you’re talking to yourself the whole time saying, “I’m the innocent one.  Why aren’t people coming up and even touching or reaching out?  Why isn’t he told to stay there with his back to the wall or his face to the wall?”  It’s incredible and you actually feel as though you’re guilty.  And it just heightens all the feelings that you’ve been worried about and stressed about throughout, in my case, the whole year.   When I met somebody that I knew that he knew, I’d think, “Do they think that I’m guilty?  Do they think it was my fault?  Or what has he told them?  They probably know nothing but they’re thinking things about me that I can’t control.”  Just making the decision to go ahead with it I felt as though I had to keep it very, very quiet.  But I was very aware that somebody who was guilty mightn’t want to do that because they  might want to protest their innocence the whole time.  And I really felt as though that was really annoying.

MT:  That reminds me of something you said which I thought was really powerful about how you felt like you had to watch yourself, something along those lines.  I don’t know if you want to explain that again.  I can’t remember the words exactly that you used but that you felt like if you went out in public...

L:  I felt as though I had to watch my Ps and Qs, watch my behaviour, that if anybody saw me and I was having a good time or being vivacious or frivolous that it would be like, “Oh look, there she is.  Wouldn’t you know.  Wasn’t she drunk that night?”  So I felt that I always had to be on guard and I always felt that somebody that I don’t know, that knows me to see, that knows W--’s side of the story, they might have too many drinks and they’ll take it upon themselves to either come over and make a scene,” which I certainly didn’t want, and that was just on my mind the whole time.  And I was getting to the stage that when I was meeting friends, everything became a rigmarole.  “I’ll meet you there.  If this happens or if that person comes up the toilet after me and I’m not...”. I was blowing things out of all proportion.  Thankfully my friends were very patient but I’m sure once they were getting along with their night that it became a little tedious, listening to me. “Right, I’m going to the toilet now everybody.” Because I was really afraid that something would happen, you know?   I don’t feel that now but I really did have a sense of fear the whole time because of what people thought or their perception of me on account of what he might have said.  And you feel that very strongly in court when you’re there.  You feel almost as if he’s being treated like royalty and you’re using the backdoor.  It’s awful.

MT:  It seems like that whole set-up of making the victim associated with the crime more so than the accused would be especially exacerbated and difficult in a sexual assault case where women....  I guess it just seems like so few women actually go through with these things to begin with and there’s this whole idea of the hysterical female, like, “Women can’t be trusted”, blah, blah, blah, blah.

L:  Yeah, and definitely what you’ve just said there about hysterical female or “females should not be trusted,” I’d never actually put that into words before but it was in my head.  And I felt this real sense of responsibility to come across as intelligent, articulate, together, dignified, respectable and all the other niceties you can think of.  And I really did.  I felt there was such an onus on me to show that the whole time.  So it was a case of either kind of going, “This is affecting  me to such an extent that I’m going to break down and be a hysterical female,” or, “I’m going to have a stiff upper lip, chin up,” all the other little clichés that people have been telling me all the time (that made me feel like wanting to box them, you know, because you just get so sick of it).  You just kind of feel it’s so easy for somebody to say, “Stiff upper lip.”  You think, “Do you know what you’re talking about?  You don’t actually.  Come here and feel what I’m feeling and I’ll step into your shoes and say, ‘Stiff upper lip.’”  It just seems so frivolous and you feel like just boxing them.

F:  But I think too that having to relive the incident is re-victimisation of the victim.  And especially having to do it in a courtroom situation in front of strangers. I think that is a very, very difficult thing to do because again when you’re being cross-examined the defence is going to try and trip you up.  That’s his or her job.  It’s very demoralising.  I would imagine that it’s very degrading.  The whole situation, especially in sexual assault and rape cases.  Because you have to go into all the details of what happened to you in front of complete strangers, the majority of whom are men.

L:  That’s a point actually.  My jury was ten males, two females.  And I remember just looking at their faces at times, thinking, “How could they possibly understand?”   And one or two of them looked exceptionally bored.  Now maybe they had made their mind up from the word go and were just waiting to give their verdict but I was sitting there for three days looking at these faces, wondering what was going on in their heads and at the back of my mind thinking, “There’s ten males and two females.”

MT:  How do they select a jury here?

F:  It’s if you’re registered on the elector’s register, they take people from that.  Now some people are exempted from jury service.  Anybody in the armed forces, the police.  I think religious are exempted.  Or if you’re a full time student.

MT:  And then is it totally random who goes?

F:  Yes, it’s totally random but each barrister, the defence and prosecuting barrister, have an option to reject seven.  But then a lot of people who are actually picked that morning will say, “I’m terribly sorry, I can’t serve on the jury, I’m going on my holidays tomorrow.”  But it doesn’t matter because they would have maybe fifty people in there for one jury.

MT: I know in the States that eliminates a lot of women because women can’t take a day off work.  Or if you’ve got kids.

I guess just to finish up the actual technical details of the case, do you wanna say what the sentencing was and if you were happy, both of you, if you were happy with it, or surprised with it?

L:  He was sent to prison straight after the court case.  Once there was the unanimous decision he was sent to prison straight away.  The sentencing was then in February.

F:  It was about two months, was it?

L:  It was three months.

F:  It was just before Christmas, the trial.

L:  It was three months he was in prison and I thought, “That’s good.  That’s showing I suppose a certain amount of seriousness.”  I was still preoccupied with people’s perception, more so than I can ever remember in my whole life.  It was just, “This will show people,” you know.  But then when the sentencing came around and he got up and took the stand and he was crying and he was very sorry and, “I’m sorry I made Lorna go through the whole trauma of the court case,” I just sat there feeling sick.  Because he got a five year suspended sentence.  And he had shares in the company he was working in which wouldn’t mature until October that had to be paid to me once they matured.  And his employers would allow him to continue working there if he got a suspended sentence and he couldn’t go back to prison.  And I just kind of thought, “No, but he’s not being hung, drawn and quartered.”

And I know that everybody else was...  I know that John was delighted, the guard involved in the case.  Finola was happy.  Dad kind of, I don’t know, he had very little perception of what was going on until he was actually there, so it was a bit of a rude awakening for him as well.  He didn’t realise that it was going to be as big as it was.  He thought, “Well, that’s very, very good,” because he’s read so often that really not a lot happens.  But I still really felt, “Well he’s not being flogged publicly.  He’s not being...  He doesn’t have to wear a badge saying ‘rapist,’” because as far as I’m concerned he tried to rape me, and if I didn’t fight enough, that was going to happen.  And I had to fight for my life and make sure that someone came to the house to collect me because he wanted to walk me home.  I knew by the look on his face that I didn’t trust him, that I would have been bludgeoned or knocked unconscious or something, because he knew what he had done.  And he knew that it had freaked me out, and he knew that I wasn’t placid or blasé about it at all.  And I just felt that, “Right, OK, I’ve been walking around, it feels like I’ve been in prison.  I can’t go to the shops without feeling paranoid.  I can’t go anywhere without feeling that there’s somebody out to get me, you know, because of something that he has brought on himself and his family and his children.  But I feel as though other people see me as responsible.”

I was taking all the case scenarios that John and Finola have told me about, but secretly I feel no he hasn’t had to walk around, you know, with a label attached to him.  And he’s been walking around, shouting the odds, for over a year, shopping, buying the...  you know, free to walk around everywhere he needed to go, with a big defiant attitude.  I just feel as though, no, it  wasn’t fair.

F:  But the whole sentencing was five years suspended sentence plus the shares in his company plus the fact that he has to move away from the town.

L:  Which was the most important thing at the time.  But as it happens... He’s gone, I only found out quite recently.  His house is up for sale and he’s applied for council housing in another part of Wicklow, but it’s so many months on and he’s still...  his children are still in the same school, they’re still shopping in the same area, they’re still meeting up with friends in the same places, they’re still living in the same vicinity.  And I really feel that other than John is so diligent and so prepared to see it completely through, that if it was someone else who thought, “Right, it was a good case.  We got what we wanted.  You should be happy,” that that house could be on the market and they could be refusing millions of pounds for their terraced house, you know, and stay within the same area.  I feel that, you know, it’s a bit of a farce.

I can understand, listening to other cases why people are so happy, and...   But I feel myself that he hasn’t paid.  You know, he hasn’t paid.  And there’s nothing to stop him looking up at me defiantly and giving me a dirty look.  And they are the things that cut to the core.  They are the things that intimidate you when you’re out and there’s nothing to stop him doing that.  Or his relatives or his family.  And that’s what I put up with, you know, the whole time.  And you’re still walking around using the strength of the stiff upper chin or the whatever it is, all the rest.  You know, when you are out somewhere and you see his relations or friends, you have to pretend you don’t care, and you do.

MT:  So even though you said you’re not feeling the paranoia anymore to the same extent it’s still, even though the sentencing’s done, it’s still not completely over.

L:  It’s still not completely gone.  I’m not thinking about it the whole time but if I am in a situation whereby I see anybody that is in direct contact with him, or any family or friends, I will feel that sense of, “Oh my god.”

MT:  And do you feel like the experience has affected most parts of your life, or all parts of your life, or have you been able to not let it?

L:  It’s affected a whole load of them.  It really, really has.  It affected my relationship with my boyfriend who was so strong.  I mean he really was a tower of strength throughout the whole thing and really wanted to see justice be done.  But having said that, because he was so involved in it, I’m not too sure whether we spoke about it openly enough.  I kind of took it for granted that he knew what I was feeling because he was so much part of it, whereas he didn’t really.  On the day that he was found guilty, we left the court and decided that we’d go home and get a video and get into bed and relax or try to.  And we went to Quinnsworth to get a cooked chicken.  Everything was completely surreal, and he said, “Oh my god, I feel as though I’ve just been in a movie.  I feel as though everyone’s looking at me and they know we’ve been in court.”  And I felt really annoyed with him.  I was like, “I can really relate to what you’re saying, because I’ve been living it for the past year.”   So maybe we should have talked about it more.   But then, you never really know how to deal with it, and you just deal with it the best way you know how.

F:  There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to deal with it anyway.  There really isn’t.

L:  My family were very protective.  They didn’t want...  They would have rather if I had pushed it under the carpet because they didn’t want more hurt for me or more stigma attached to me.  Work was inclined to suffer kind of, afterwards, because I didn’t say anything to anybody initially.  And then just between the court case and personal problems with Andrew everything just kind of came to a head all at once and it felt like a lonely time in my life.  So that’s when I started to really lose weight.  I was so wired and I was aggressive on the phone with people and I had to explain myself.  Then I had to take time off work and go to the doctor, and my weight was still plummeting, and you know it just takes such a toll.  And you’re the whole time...  You feel like a duck.  You’re trying to keep this calm exterior and you’re paddling like hell underneath, you know, you really are, and you know you’re losing it.  And then I think you just get to the stage where you’ve had enough.  And then I remember feeling this really strange kind of, almost fixation with honesty, to the extent that I was almost doing myself no favours, because I couldn’t be dishonest to anybody. I was becoming so blunt about everything that I was saying.  Hurtful almost.  Because it was just like, “No lies, no nonsense.”  If I was even out socially and someone was talking rollicks I was like, “Rollicks?!”  You know, aggressively so.  “Why are you saying that when you really mean this?”  It’s like I wasn’t even able to deal with it socially, which is not like me at all, because I’m well capable of having just a nonsense chatty conversation.  And I just wasn’t.  So I think a lot of my friends like really had to deal with seeing a completely different personality for a while.  Not that I noticed it too much at the time but looking back.  But that honesty, I had to actually pull myself up on it because I was saying things at work even.  It was kind of, “Grrrrrrrh.”  I know that was directly on account of being put under so much scrutiny for something I knew I was right about.  And I felt that nobody should have questioned it in the first place.  I don’t know, has anybody ever said that to you before, about that being one of the symptoms?

F:  Yeah.  I think it is the wait too.  Between the attack and the court case is very long, with very little information coming from anybody.  Now you were very lucky having John as the policeman in charge of the case because he is an exception in the sense that he kept you informed.  Even when he hadn’t any information to give you, he’d give you a call.

L:  He checked in.

F:  He’d check in.  I mean he was excellent.  And that’s... We go down to our police academy in Templemore four times a year and I specifically talk about the courts.  But we will always say to the students there, “It is so important.  A victim/witness needs information.  Even if you haven’t anything new to tell them, a phone-call only takes two minutes.  Just say, ‘Look.  I haven’t been speaking to you for a few weeks.  There isn’t anything new on it but these things take a while.  I’ll be in touch with you soon again.’  And you haven’t given them any information but the fact that you’ve taken the trouble of picking up the phone means an awful lot.”

L:  It really does.  It’s all down to being treated like a human being at the end of the day.  And that somebody is rooting for you.

MT:  That sounds like a good way to segue into: how did you find out about Victim Support?  And at what point did they become involved in your case?

L:  It was very, very late on really.  My boyfriend and I were invited around to dinner with close friends and we decided, “We’ll tell them because the court case is coming and we will need support.”  So we went around and we had dinner and we said, “Look, we’ve something to tell you.”  And they were horrified.  Especially my female friend.  She was like, “How did you keep this to yourselves?”  And I was talking with her about it and I was telling her my frame of mind and she said, “We had a good friend that was murdered, and the murder victim’s father is now part of Victim Support himself.”   Her family had actually used Victim Support because their brother had been stabbed.  I hadn’t heard a thing about them.  I had been to the Rape Crisis Centre once or twice and I had picked up as much literature as I could, but nobody actually said to me...   And I felt so cheated and so annoyed that a friend of mine, just because I had decided it was time to tell somebody in desperation...  It’s like, “It’s coming up and I haven’t told a soul and I don’t know my family’s frame of mind and they’re anxious about me going ahead with it.  Should I include them in it?  Should I not?   What’s best for me?  I don’t need anybody who isn’t going to be strong.”  So I went to a kind of a strong friend and Hazel, per usual, came up with the goods.  She told me about Victim Support and I phoned the very, very next day.  And I’ll never forget it in fact and she told me about Victim Support and St John’s Wort which is like a herbal remedy.  Because I told her I was losing it in work you know and everything.

And I phoned Victim Support and I got talking with Pat and she just did so much so quickly.  Really now, that’s pro-active.  And was able to give me so many facts and even though I didn’t have the language and I still don’t, you know she was able to decipher what I was talking about.  I just didn’t know certain phrases.   And I didn’t know what court it was going to be in, or where it was going to be heard because nobody knew.  And everything is so airy-fairy.  And she just kind of said, “Right.  The girl knows diddly-squat,” and picked up the telephone and went about it and came back to me within no space of time whatsoever and was able to give me loads of facts.  And I was just astounded.  It was like manna from heaven.  It was great!   Somebody that’s going to tell me something!  And she arranged a meeting with Finola.  And I went off to meet them and I got probably more answers within that amount of time than I had in months.  Because there’s a mixture of the factual and the emotional, and that to me was very important, very important.  And it was really taken from there then.  Our next meeting was when you took me off into the courts.

F:  That’s right yeah.

L:   Which was the first time I realised, “I’m not going to hear a thing.”

F:  I warned you.

L:  Yeah.

MT:  So what’s your first memory of the meeting, Finola?

F:  Well, we met Lorna in a hotel quite near here actually.  And I think it was morning time, and she came in, and Pat and I were there.  And I did most of the talking because I was going to be the one supporting her in court.  Pat had given her loads of information anyway and found out things that you wanted to know.  So what I did, what I always do is, we always try to meet the person before the court case because at least we know each other’s faces and are not complete strangers.  And if there’s an opportunity we’ll show them around a courtroom, bring them into a court when there’s something going on so they get to know what’s what.  But in fact the courtroom down in Wicklow wasn’t anything like the courtroom I showed you in Dublin.  It was laid out completely differently.

So anyway I talked Lorna through the whole process of what happens you know in the courtroom, where the barristers sit, where the defendant will be sitting, where the jury would be, emphasising the fact that it’s “in camera,” which means it’s a private sitting.  The public are not allowed into any sexual assault or rape cases so it’s not a full court room, although it seems that there are loads of people there anyway.  Emphasising I suppose really that you’re the person, you’re the victim.  You’ve nothing.  You just get into the witness box and tell the truth.  And I suppose the emotional support is just, we’re there for them, and Lorna could turn around to me and say, “What are they saying now?”   I’d be sort of more tuned into what they do say because I’m used to listening to what goes on in a courtroom.  You know, taking you out if you didn’t want to be sitting in the courtroom listening to something.  Things like that.  We’re really...  We give practical and emotional support to a victim/witness, before during and after a court case.  If they want to see us afterwards they can.  Sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes they can’t wait to get rid of us because we’re a bad memory for them if things haven’t gone well.  Because really I’d say it’s 60/40 for a guilty verdict in sexual assault cases.  So you’re going to have 40% of your victims very unhappy at the end of the day.  They’re never happy anyway because there are no winners, I don’t think.  Everybody’s scarred at the end of the day.  They really are.

MT:  And what did you think of Lorna’s case and the sentencing?

F:  I’ve never heard a sentence like it, never experienced anything like that before.  I thought it was a very unusual, I thought it was a very measured sentence.  You would never be happy, no matter what he got, I don’t think.  It was balanced.  He was charged.  He is sentenced to five years in prison if he does not obey those various rules that were set out to him.  Plus the fact if he is convicted of any kind of crime, be it the pettiest crime in the world, he’ll have to serve his sentence.  If he’s caught for speeding, drunk driving, and found guilty, he will have to serve his sentence.   So he has to be a very good boy for the next five years.

MT:  Sounds tough on his wife and kids.

F:  Well that’s his problem.  I mean he brought all this on himself.

L:  Which is what I had to keep reminding myself because I was so worried about...  So I think...  I just can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like from a closer situation.  As far as I’m concerned it was close enough.  I knew both of them and I was friends with his wife, and knew him, and befriended him because she was my friend initially.  So I knew the children, knew when their birthdays were, knew their names, knew where they went to school.  Any closer than that and... you know,  I knew I took on enough of their stress and strife, and I was really thinking, “Am I going to go through this?” because of the children.

MT:  Which is just so ridiculous that you even had to worry about it.

L:  No, but I did keep saying to myself the whole time, “He has brought it on himself. He has done this to his children.  He has done this to me, his children, his wife, his family, my family.  Everybody’s confused, everybody’s hurt.  I’m just distraught, you know.”  Andrew’s emotions were very interesting as well because they were male, pent-up, you know, emotions and he was very hurt by it.  It showed in completely different ways to me.  Something that Finola said earlier on about, “Do you want to stay in here or get out now?  Do you want to have a breath of fresh air?  Are you happy sitting here?  Are the seats a bit too hard?” Whatever it might be.  Being able to say, “What are they talking about?!”  More so than your family or anybody that is there to support you, that I really got the sense that I didn’t have to explain anything to Finola or I didn’t have to...   if I turned around and said, “What did they say, Finola, what did they say?” that she wasn’t going to like sit there and go, “You spoke very abruptly just then Lorna and it’s not quite cricket.”  I knew that she’d know that it was like, “Right, OK, she’s wired.  She can’t hear a thing.  I’ll answer her quickly and listen to what else is going on because she’ll want to know that as well.”   I knew that I felt that she was completely tuned in to what was happening in the courtroom and what was going through my  mind, what I’d want to know, what I wouldn’t understand, the situations that were going to irritate me, the lack of microphones, the back to the audience, you know, it’s incredible.  So that understanding as well was fundamental over those three or four days, absolutely.  Because nobody else knew what the situation was going to be like.

F:  No.  Well, of course you wouldn’t know.  You’d never been there before.  And hopefully you’ll never have to go through anything like that again because I mean it is so daunting...  I always think the atmosphere in a courtroom is so impersonal. I could almost hear you screaming inside yourself  saying, “Me!  Think about me!”  You know, that little voice inside trying to get out.

L:  Yeah.  And it didn’t even feel like a little voice.  It was like a roar.  I felt it was just going to come out like, “ROARRRRRRRRRRR!” and windows would shatter.  I felt as though I was really suppressing that. And  I did.  And you’re just controlling yourself to such an extent but you still cannot control anything else, so you’re putting all this control into being a good person, being dignified, being...  and you just want to go, “This is nuts!”

F:  But also I must say when I was supporting Lorna, it was very easy to support her because, you’re a very articulate person, and you do say what you feel.  Whereas some people who I could be supporting may not even have the language to express how they’re feeling.  And that’s difficult because again you’re there for them always, but if you’re not getting any little feedback about how somebody is feeling, it’s very hard to react, you know.

L:  I would imagine very tiring as well because you’re constantly trying to work things out rather than somebody just saying, “I’m down now, I’m blue now,” or, “I’m confused now.”  God.

F:  But really, generally speaking, they all feel exactly as you have felt.  They will all one way either show it or say it or even by not saying it you know that they are so angry they are ready to burst.  And this’d be during the trial.  At the end of the day, whether it’s a guilty or a not guilty verdict, nobody feels happy.  It’s worse obviously when it’s a not guilty verdict because they’ve had to go through the whole thing and relive the whole situation in a courtroom scene and at the end of the day all you can do is turn around... and I must say the police are always very good too.... and just say, “Well look, we believe you.  We believe that this happened to you.”  And quite often a trial could be thrown out on a technicality, a point of law, and that happens occasionally.

MT:  Yeah what was the one a couple of weeks ago that was in the paper?  You told me about it also.  It was thrown out for some really stupid reason.  I think it was a rape case or a sexual assault.

F:  Yes, it was because they had no courtroom with Closed Circuit Television available.

MT:  So the whole case was thrown out?

F:  Yes.  Now they can reapply to put that case back in again but I mean they were sitting.  Everybody was there.  Now I wasn’t involved in this.  I read it in the paper.  They were all ready to go.  All there.  Victim primed up.  Or not, depending on how the victim’s feeling. And no courtroom with a closed circuit television.  Because it was obviously a minor who was the victim -- they don’t have to be in the same courtroom as the defendant.  In a normal, I mean, a normal rape trial, there isn’t closed circuit television, there’s no need for it.

MT:  Well that’s an interesting distinction of deciding that a minor shouldn’t have to be around.

F:  Yes.  In fact they’re in a completely different building.

MT:  That would have been nice for you, huh Lorna?  How do you, Finola... I mean, even though you said at the beginning, “I’m not a victim,” you’re still going through probably this huge range of emotions every time you go through this process with someone.  How do you keep the energy to keep going?  I mean do you ever get to a point after a trial where you go, “I can’t do this anymore?”

F:  No.  I’ve got to a point after certain trials where I go, “Oh, I hope I never have to do anything like that again.”  There was a particular trial, which I can remember so vividly because it was just so sad.  It was a child abuse case and the children were all adults now and they were talking about how that abuse had affected their lives.  It was really heartrending to listen to them.  The perpetrator had pleaded guilty, so there wasn’t a trial as such, but they allow victims to get into the witness box and tell the court how it has affected their lives.  And one of the most, it wasn’t sad, it made me feel like a little worm actually, the parents of one of these people turned around to me, the father, and  they would have been in their seventies.  And he said to me, “You know, we have forgiven him.”  And I thought, “Well, you’re a better man than me.”  I really and truly thought, you know, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to say, but I don’t know as a parent if I would ever be able to say that if that had happened to any of my children.

L:  I can’t comprehend that at all.  I wonder if that’s lack of understanding or something.
Do you know what I mean?   It’s like, “Oh, we forgive him.”  Well you’re a very big person, you know, but it didn’t happen to you.  Stiff upper lip.

F: I found that very hard.  And also, it was a very big, high profile case, and I found the media very intrusive with us.  You know, following us and wanting us to make statements and things, and I found that very scary.

L:  Just from the question that you asked earlier about the stress and strain, you know, it took upon Finola...  I obviously don’t know anything other than my own case, but my sister was relying on her, my father was relying on her, everybody just automatically thought of her as part of the family.  Finola’s just one of us, except for the fact that she’s the only one of our family who knows what’s going on.  So it’s almost like she’s sitting at the top of the table and that must be a huge responsibility in itself.   Did you feel that a lot from our family?

F:  Yes, because we really try to be very objective.  You cannot get...  If you get subjective about the people you’re looking after, you cannot do your job properly.  But sometimes it’s difficult to be objective, because you get to know and like people.  Obviously if you’re with them in a trial which goes on for two, three or four days...  If you didn’t get emotionally involved with your victims, you’re not really... you’re not supposed to, but I mean you can’t not.  But we do off-load.  We have meetings.  We meet frequently and we would discuss, you know, how you felt or how it affected you, and somebody else would say, “Well I felt a bit like that at such and such a trial.”  We don’t mention the names of the people we’re dealing with even to each other.  It’s very  much a confidential service because we want to make sure that the victim knows that anything they say to us is not going to go any further.  I think that’s so they will be secure with us.  That they can say anything they like to us and it’s not going to go any further.  But you do.  I mean you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get involved.  I love it when there’s a good result.

L:  I felt really good for Finola.  I felt really good for me.  I felt really good for women.  I felt that Finola could go back into Pat and go, “Yes.  Sometimes it works out.”  Because she had to sit there as well.  Finola had to sit there as well, on these hard uncomfortable benches, feeling as though I was going to uncoil any.  And still aware of me kind of saying little things like, I don’t know, even little bitchy remarks that you just can’t help yourself saying, like, “This is all going over Dad’s head.”  And then as you’re going through and you start to see other people reacting... my sister got very involved in it.  And she was very thankful for Finola and is always asking about Finola. And Dad as well.  I mean he was only saying the other day when you phoned: “Lovely lady.” And Dad wouldn’t really kind of express his emotions.

F:  But he was a wonderful support to you.

L:  He was.

F:  He really and truly was.  And for a man, I don’t think it’s an easy thing to go through at all.  Especially a father.  It’s even harder.

L:  I know, and I was very conscious that he had to sit there and listen to his daughter saying, “He gagged me.  He put his hand over my mouth.”  And to go through all these details and to say I was drunk and I went to bed and I don’t know what time it was and all the things that fathers don’t want to know.  Their daughters should wear frocks really, or whatever it is, you know.  And as much as Dad knows that I’m spirited, it’s still...  I felt awful for him.  But at the same time I really felt, “You’re here to support me.  And this is what you’re going to have to do.”  And I really felt that it was a learning experience for Dad.

Another thing that used to annoy me when people said it was: “You know, you might find that you’ll be a bigger or better person at the end of all of this.”  And I’d think why?  Why should I be put in this situation?  And I’d feel the head spinning syndrome coming on again.  And now, I can say, “God I can empathise and I can sympathise and at least know where somebody is coming from.”  And I feel that when I’m talking with people.  They don’t even have to say anything.  It’s a look in their eyes or a one-liner. Because there were two things that I had never dealt with before.  One was splitting up with somebody that I loved, and second, the court case, the whole feeling of me being put on trial, the whole feeling of me walking around feeling all these emotions.  It’s a situation that is supposed to happen to somebody else.  You know, you read it in the newspapers, and it’s never going to happen to you because you’ve got a tight circle of friends and you know, you do the right things.  You go to people’s birthday parties, don’t you?  And all of a sudden you are in this situation.  And I do feel now that I can reach out to somebody without even saying loads of gush or blurb because it only takes the one line for somebody to be able to go, “That person knows what I’m talking about.”

And I’ve often been in a situation since then where I’ve met complete strangers, friends of friends, and somebody will say something, and you just kind of say, “Oh, you’ve just been through a bad time or something,” and they’ll go, “Yeah.” And they’ll just start telling you everything.  And I find that it’s in their eyes and it’s in things that they don’t say.  Rather than somebody kind of going, “Isn’t that awful?  That’s terrible.  Oh God.”  And I just cringe now to think of the amount of conversations I did have perhaps with people, thinking I was being strong for them or whatever, whereas I realise now I couldn’t have known.  I couldn’t have known the emotions behind it.  So yeah, I do feel that yes I am a stronger person, perhaps better person, from that point of view.  But I still feel that I shouldn’t have had to go through it at all, just because some guy couldn’t control himself, and didn’t think about anybody other than himself.

MT:  In your work with Victim Support, Finola, would sexual assault and rape cases, would they be common, would they be less common?  What’s kind of a typical case that you would be dealing with?

F:  Mostly sexual assault, rape cases and murder cases.  All rape cases are held in the Central Criminal Court in the Four Courts.  So whether it’s happened in Longford or Tralee, they all come to Dublin.  Now, of the percentage, we would only get a percentage of those cases, because the victim has to be referred to us or refer herself or himself.  I’ve supported two male victims of rape.

When the summons is sent out, ideally there should be a little letter attached to it.  We have permission from the Chief State Solicitor’s office -- when they’re sending out a summons, they’re supposed to stick on a letter which tells the witness about our service.  And then it’s up to the witness to contact us.  Sometimes the guards, the police in charge of the case, will say to the victim, “Look, I think you’re going to need some support during the trial.”  Or they will ring on behalf of the victim and say, “Look, this case is coming up in a few weeks time, would you support this witness”.  Sometimes it’s self-referral but mostly it comes through the police or through the letter that is enclosed with the summons, though if they have never heard of the service obviously they’re not going to look for us.  But again when we go down to the police training college in Templemore we emphasise the fact that our service is available, so at least we’re getting them as young students.  And hopefully they will take it out with them when they do go out as policemen and women.  A lot of the students there are very interested in our service because it takes a lot of the burden from the police, during the trial, of having to keep an eye on the witnesses, because again, you see, they would all be witnesses as well.  And really witnesses aren’t supposed to talk to each other.

So we take over, and if the victim, or the witness, wants to know something, we don’t have all the answers, but we can at least go to the solicitor or the barrister or the police in charge of the case and ask: “What’s this or when is this going to happen or why?”  So that we’re a conduit.   And we certainly take a lot of the extra worry that they would have during a trial because the police themselves have put a lot of work into this case.  They want to see it going well.  So it’s quite traumatic for them when it doesn’t go well.  So we always emphasise this when we’re talking to the students in Templemore, “You’ve got to remember at the end of the day that if you don’t get a good result, you will need support yourselves, and the best support you can get is from your colleagues and your superiors.”  So we do emphasise that a lot.

MT:  Do you have any sense of whether or not sexual assault and rape is on the rise in Ireland, or is or would there be sort of similar statistics over the past thirty years?

F:  Certainly there are far more rape and sexual assault cases coming to court but that is because, I think, people are actually going to the police and saying, “Look, I’ve been sexually assaulted.” Or, “I’ve been raped.”  They are going now, whereas before, up to say ten or twelve years ago, if there was one rape case a year it was surprising.  It’s been there all the time.  Women and men have been raped forever.  But now they are coming forward.

MT: And why do you think that people are changing?

F:  I think it probably is because women won’t put up with this nonsense anymore.  They feel they have a bit more power in themselves, they are more confident in themselves, and they won’t let somebody get away with it.  Society has changed so much in the last ten or fifteen years in Ireland.  People are far more open.  We talk about sex much more.  The Church hasn’t got such a grip on people anymore.

I think an awful lot of people thought in Ireland that we were all Virgin Marys, we all had immaculate births or conceptions.  Because it really is an extraordinary thing that it was not, sex was not talked about at all in this country, I would think up to about fifteen or twenty years ago.  And that has opened up a whole new area of women not being ashamed of their bodies.  And I think there was a lot of shame involved in sex up to some time ago.  So therefore why should somebody get away with violating my body?  And also I think television and the media and you know the movies, all that sort of thing has opened up the world to us.

L:  Yeah.  I have to say personally I couldn’t get over the fact that, if anything, I knew I was equal and, you know, my perception of the guy who did this to me anyway wasn’t a very kind of healthy one.  I couldn’t’ get over it and yeah, I didn’t think about it until you’ve just said it now.  It was just a case of equality.  “I’m not going to tolerate this.  How dare you?”  And it would horrify me to think, but I could well understand, how the, “Fold your arms, cross your legs and keep the devil out,” kind of attitude would make you feel...

F:  That it was somehow your fault that this happened to you.  And that certainly was a perception in Ireland up to, let’s say maybe two decades ago, three decades ago.  I think the sixties liberated a lot of people.  Slower here than in other parts of the world but it certainly did.  Women could go into a pub on their own!  I mean when you think back....  I remember the first time I went into a pub with a friend of mine, a girl friend of mine.  It was the afternoon, it was lunch-time, and we felt as if everybody was looking at us.  This was only thirty years ago or maybe thirty five, but women did not go into those sort of places without an escort, without a man.

L:  That’s what the snugs were for weren’t they?

F:  Yes.  Things have changed.  I think mostly for the better.  In this country they certainly have.  Women’s position in this country has changed excellently I think.  There’s plenty of room for more change but I think it has changed for the better, very much so.  But we have been lobbying, we lobby a lot from the court’s point of view, to improve how a victim, a witness is perceived in the courtroom.  We’ve been lobbying now for say one bench in the courtroom for say the family of the murder victim.  Because a murder trial is...  anybody can walk in to it and sit down and listen to what’s going on.  And normally none of the family would be witnesses.  So really they’re only there because they want  to be there, but they actually are not called as witnesses because they’re not witnesses so they’re a kind of...   Nobody give a hoot whether they’re there or not because they’re not going to be recognised.  So we have now that if it’s a murder trial and any of us are involved, we’ll go into the sergeant in charge of the court and say, “Look, will you keep that bench clear please for the family?” and there’s no problem.

Another thing we’ve been instrumental in getting is the Victim Impact Statement, which is a form that the victim fills in with the help of the guard, the police in charge of the case, when the person either pleaded guilty or has been found guilty, but before sentencing.  And in that form there are various headings, you know, economic loss, physical injuries, life changes, and really the life changes part are the most important part because it’s how you are now, not when it happened to you, but what changes in your life have happened now.  And a copy of that goes to the judge and the prosecuting barrister and the defence barrister.  And it gives the victim at least some sort of say.  She’s telling or he’s telling people, “Look, this is the way it’s affected me.  I’m like this now because that has happened to me.”  And it is a help because the defendant will always have a probation report done on him, so it balances it up a little bit.

MT:  I wanted to ask you, Lorna, what would you say now to someone that came to you and said, “I was assaulted and I’m thinking of taking a case to court.”  Would you advise that they go for it or would you tell them, “Oh, you know, it’s gonna be awful.”

L:  I have to say I’d try and be as realistic as possible because there’s no point disguising the truth -- because that’s even more devastating I would imagine.  But I certainly would not put them off it, because I know that I feel like an inner strength after having...  No it’s like I was true to whatever inner strength I have, and that’s more important than...   The fact that you found strength or you found the strength to do it.  It’s like true to your own inner strength that was and will always be.  I would hate to think that I would advise anybody to do something that was going to affect the rest of their lives but then it depends so much on the person.  I know that there was a friend of mind who decided not to go ahead with it, but she was actually a witness in my case and she was delighted for me to go ahead with it all, and at one stage I actually felt very annoyed with her.  But at the same time I had to kind of go, “Well, look, different strokes for different folks.”  But she was taking a lot of...  She was thinking about the effect of what had happened to her and how it would affect other people and how would it affect their perception of her and all the things that come into it.  The stupidity, the blame, the stupidity of the situation, the guilt etc.  But I don’t know whether she’s happier for that now.  And I feel like I can’t dwell on that with her because I know that I am happier.  And that’s all I can say.  But I would definitely not say to somebody, “Don’t.”  I’d tell them that they have to be really strong.  That they have to listen to people saying, you know, “Chin up,” but you’ll know when you have to do it yourself and when you don’t, and it’s good to be angry at times.  I feel as though even myself at times when I was hanging around that courtroom not knowing what was happening, or just outside in the lobby area or the foyer where you’re around with criminals all chained together, you just think, “I don’t belong here.”  And you get annoyed and I think that I showed my annoyance at times.

F:  Which is a good thing to do, Lorna.

L:  No I didn’t care.  Because I knew I needed a reaction because otherwise I was going to explode.  And so I showed...  You have to do that at times, if that’s your persona.  People are so different and...  But I would never say to anybody, “Don’t. Don’t do it because it’s bad, because it feels awful.”  But then mine was, what would you say?  You know, OK, good won over evil or, you know, my case did come good.  And it was successful.  It was successful for me.  It was successful for my family.  They’re proud of me now.  Whereas they didn’t know whether to be or whether to support me or what to do.  They just kept out of it until I kind of said, “Right, this court, this day and are you coming or are you not?”  It was a very kind of last minute thing.  And I felt, you know, good for Finola, I felt really good for John.  I felt really good for everybody who was behind me and who was willing to be behind me.

But predominantly it’s scary, it’s frightening, it’s so impersonal and you’re not treated like a victim at all.  There’s no boohoohoo.  You don’t get that at all.  You rely on your family and Victim Support and any means that you can.  For instance if Finola had not been there on the day... Until John made his statement, until the guard made his statement, he had to make very sure to stay away from me.  So I wouldn’t even have had that support, and I would have been sitting there thinking, “There’s the guy who tried to rape me and I’m sitting two feet away from him.”  The guard that he was handcuffed to didn’t even know who I was.  It was just awful.  Which actually reminds me of the time the judge was summarising the whole...  Do you remember that?  The judge was summarising the case and I was listening as hard as I possibly could and with that this kind of big, bulky policeman came in and leant against the stand, right in front of me.

F:  That’s right, yes.

L:  So I ended up just kind of...  I was sitting there and I was like this.  They were just about to give the verdict.  The judge was summarising the case.  Everything was happening.  Andrew wasn’t even beside me because he had to go out to the toilet.  What happened was the guy just came in and landed in front of me.  A guard.  So I was like sitting there...  And the next thing this big blue back -- and it was as close as that.  So I kind of went “Excuse me!” and he turned around to me and he just said, “Well, move up.”  And Finola went and dragged me down the seat.  But I was completely incredulous.  I could not believe that was happening.  That really  made me feel like going, “I am a victim!”

F:  You were absolutely boiling.  I knew you were boiling and I was thinking, “Get her moved out before she thumps him.  She’ll be up for assault herself.”

L:  I was sitting there with my life dangling  in everybody else’s hands, a load of people that looked bored, or they were expressionless, only two females, and I’ll never forget it.  That was just the worst.  That actually...  that is how the whole thing felt.

MT:  It’s like a small metaphor for the whole experience kind of.

L:  Precisely.  And he made me feel like twelve different types of shite in one fell swoop and I could not believe it.  And you were just like, “Oh God.”  But the way he looked at me, it was terrible.  Like granted he didn’t...  I’m not part of his life but I was in a courtroom.  People who are victims are in courtrooms so there should be...  I feel that there should be a designated area so that people can at least...  oh I don’t know.   You see some people wouldn’t like that.

F:  No.  Some people wouldn’t like that, to be sort of put on the spot because they’re there with,  “Look, there’s the victim,” written all over them.

L:  I would have.  Not because I wanted to have victim written all over me but I wanted people to perceive that I’m sitting here with bated breath because I am a victim, you know. And not to be put in a situation where somebody can stand.... I just thought, “You big ignoramus.”   Granted he didn’t know who I was.  He didn’t know anything about me but that’s all I could think.   “You big ignoramus”.   And it was just such a crucial part of the case as well and I had this distraction, out of the blue.  And every part of you is primed to listening to what’s happening in your life at that very point in time.  This could be the difference between you going home and doing something drastic to yourself because you feel that nobody will believe you anymore.  And all the emotions that you’ve, as I keep saying, you’ve been living with, and I just can’t emphasise so much.  You feel so distraught.  You don’t know what the outcome is going to be and ughhhhh.  But yes it is a small little metaphor.

MT:  I just have a few more questions.  I know we’ve been going for a while.  Do y’all want to take a break or are you doing OK?

F:  I’m fine.  Are you OK?

L:  I’m grand.

MT:  OK.  I guess I wanted to sort of get into why...  I mean because there would be hundreds of women that don’t go to work for Victim Support, hundreds of women that wouldn’t take a case to court, and I’m really interested in why women decide to stand up and get involved at whatever level they feel like getting involved in and saying, “Well, I wanna do something that’s going to affect change in the world,” you know?  I guess that’s a vague question but I guess I’d like to hear from both of you.  Finola, why you got involved in Victim Support?  And then Lorna, why do you think that you’re the kind of person that was one of the few women that actually goes through with this sort of thing?

F:  I’ve been involved in Victim Support now for six years.   I saw somebody being interviewed on television, they were just setting up the court service.  We didn’t have a service like this in Ireland.  And I thought, “Now that is very interesting.”  So I phoned and I got the application form and I was accepted.  But our training, our training was very, very thorough I must say.  Because we have to know the procedures in court.  Pat was our co-ordinator.  She worked in the courts before she retired, so she was very familiar, is very familiar with court procedure, knows a lot of the judges and barristers because she was a registrar in court, so she would have worked with them over the years.  So it was an absolute Godsend that we found her, that she was there, applied as well and was and is our co-ordinator.   The first few times...  I can’t say that I was, that I had a specific reason.  I had time on my hands right?  That sounds awfully lazy but it’s true.  You need a lot of time to do this obviously, because if you’re going to be supporting  somebody in court you have to be sure that you’re going to see it through.  Now maybe not every day but that you are a presence there -- because you can’t have a different person there every day supporting somebody.  That’s...  there’s no logic in that and obviously you’re never going to get comfortable with the witness anyway.  So you need to have time is very important.

You need to be a person who isn’t shocked very often, you know, hearing things,  because you hear an awful lot of horrible stuff in courts, you really do.  You also have to be quite objective and have a lot of patience because patience comes into it.  You’re hanging around, you’re waiting for things to start, then in the middle of the trial, there’ll be a point of law, so the jury’s sent out, and the two barristers will argue, and the judge decides which one, and the jury’s brought back...  But that can take an hour, it can take two hours, it could take half a day.   So I mean the actual trial stops while these arguments are going on.  Then the jury are brought in and it starts up again.  So there’s a lot of hanging around, there’s a lot of listening to what I consider an awful lot of drivel that goes on, really and truly.

L:  See, she knows it’s drivel.  I didn’t even know whether it’s relevant drivel.

F:  Yeah, points of law is one barrister trying to score points off the other one, trying to make his case.  I mean obviously that’s his job but it lengthens everything.  It can put another day and a half or two days onto a trial.  And this for the victim is I think an extra strain because you never know the day one of a trial  how long it’s going to take.  So I’ll always ask the guard, the policeman in charge of the case, how many witnesses are there.  Now if there are seventy-five witnesses, you know that  it’s going to go on all bloody week.  It might go into next week.  If there are only seventeen witnesses you hope...  But even with seventeen witnesses it could go into five, six, seven days.  So that’s sort of five working days and you’re into the next week then.  And it’s all stress for the victim.  The longer it goes on the more stressful it is, I think.  It has to be.  And then, at the end of the day, you know the summing up, the judge directs the jury and he sends them off and that is...  that is a difficult time, because the witnesses will always ask me, “How do you think, how do you think it’s going?”  Even during the trial: “How do you think it’s going?”  Now I would sometimes have a fair idea but I would never say to anybody, “I think it’s going badly,” because you cannot.  You don’t know at the end of the day.  And at the end of the day you think, “Look, this is an open and shut case.  He’ll have to be found guilty or she’ll have to be found guilty.”  The jury comes back in with a not-guilty verdict.  I mean, it’s happened once or twice when you sort of all were sitting there saying, “What were they thinking of in there?”  You just...  you never know until they do come back.  And they come back with some odd verdicts sometimes.  I mean odd in the good sense and odd in the bad sense.  You just don’t know.

MT:  Would you see yourself, in the work that you’re doing, as being an activist?

F:  Well I think....  I think we are.  Very much so.  We have tried to change the system from the point of view of witnesses.  We’ve had some success.  We’ve sat on working committees with judges and barristers and told them our point of view and what could be done to improve, to make it a little bit more user friendly in the courtroom.  Now they are taking all this on board but it’ll move slowly because the judiciary just moves slowly anyway.  But it will come.  We now have rooms in any new courthouses that have been built in the last three years -- or when they’re renovating old ones, we have a room in the courthouse now for Victim Support.  And that’s a good thing because we can take the person away during the trial if they’re just getting too much of it and make a cup of tea or have a cigarette or whatever and just somewhere to go.

Because that particular courthouse down there is an old one.  And everybody mills around in the hallway.  There are people coming and going and as you say, quite often you’re standing right beside the defendant because there’s nowhere else to go.  But we’ll always ask, even in a place like that now, John went off and got us a room, which was actually an interview room.  It was for barristers to use but there was nobody using it.

MT:  And what about you, Lorna?  Do you see yourself as an activist?

L:  When I first saw that question I kind of guffawed.  “Is this like me?”  Because you don’t think about it at all.  Whereas I would have...  My perception of Finola from the word go would have been, “God, yeah, she’s an activist.”  Not that I might have used that phrase but, “She’s doing.  She’s a doing person,” and she was doing for me.  And even just listening to you now, you keep saying, “It must have been very traumatic for them, or it must have been...” but like you’re living through it as well.

F:  Yes but it hasn’t happened to me, Lorna.   You see, I have to have different feelings.  I mean I couldn’t imagine what your feelings are.

L:  But even from the point of view of tension.  Somebody is relying on you not to say, “I think this is going really crappy.”  Just, you know, “Here’s the blade.”  And you know, “Use it with caution ‘cause it’s very sharp.”  The thing is that you know, there’s that pressure on you.  So you’re taking that all on board yourself because you are an activist -- because you’re doing it to benefit people who have been wronged.  So from the word go I would’ve said yes, about Finola.

And then I kind of, when I read the question, I was thinking, “No!” initially.  And then I gave it a little bit more thought and I thought...  And then I thought ever since the whole frustration and annoyance of it, you know, I really feel that when Finola says things are going to go slowly it’s like, “Let me at them.  Let me give them a bit of the Lorna tonic.”  And you know...  I really feel this kind of urgency to do it.  So I kept just thinking, “Get your life back in order.  Get your head together.  You’re going to be no good.”  But I kept thinking, “I’m going to have to write an article.  I’m going to have to write something.  I’m going to have to do something.  Because I can’t rest until somebody knows how pathetic and cruddy it really is.  And somebody has to do it that’s willing to do it.”  And when Finola phoned me up about this, I was just like so, “Yes!”

F:  Absolutely.  I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t think you’d want to.

MT: Right.  ‘Cause I was thinking, “Wow that’s really amazing,” you know.   All I could think of was why someone wouldn’t want to do it.  They would have to go through it all again.  It would be really invasive.  And I would feel really bad to have someone have to talk about something.  And I was just so relieved when this sense that you wanted people to know, you wanted the word out there.

L:  Yeah.  Very much so.

MT:  So.  But anyway.  I can’t remember what exactly we were saying.  Which when...   let’s get back to when Finola called you and you said yes.

L:  Yes.  And it was just kind of...  Immediately I just thought, “Yes,” with a certain amount of excitement I suppose in my voice.  ‘Cause I was thinking...  I was actually thinking, “Oh wow, this is fantastic.  I haven’t even had to prime myself.  Something has come along.”  And then I started to think, “Fate,” ‘cause I’m an awful divil for thinking things like that.    And I was like, “Fate.  It’s supposed to happen.”  And I just thought...  I didn’t even question it.  And then I thought about the issue about my name.  Yeah.  And I was like, “How am I going to work that one out in my head?”  And I really kind of knew even while I was thinking of it that I’d feel untrue to myself and like it would be a bit of a cop-out if I wasn’t going to say, “I’m Lorna and this happened and I’m really excessively pissed off about the fact it happened.”

The fact that somebody was shitty enough to do that to another human being let alone a female or a male or whatever.  It’s not even the fact that it was a sexual assault.  At times I kind of forget about that.  I forget about the fact that somebody was messing with private parts and they shouldn’t have been.  It’s just kind of “the thing” you know.  It’s just the whole idea that somebody would do that, to me, without me going, “Yeah, that’s all right.”  I mean, I just couldn’t get over it.  So to not put my name to it, when I feel so strongly about it would just seem like, “What’s the point?”  Especially, I had even thought about if I am going to write an article, you know, am I just going to leave it anonymous.  Or am I going to sign my name to it.  Or what?  And I still hadn’t really thought too much because I was all the time thinking, thoughts constantly running through my head.  But at the same time I’m thinking “Right, get your house in order.  Get everything ship shape again.  When are you going to be in the right frame of mind to look at it slightly more objectively?”

Having said that I don’t want to lose the anger, you know, that I feel.  And I still feel it so strongly.  I really do.  But no I wouldn’t have thought I was an activist at all.  And I still wouldn’t feel like it now because the opportunity has come along for me to say this to you and to, you know, whoever else is going to listen, but I remember feeling so strongly and kept stressing it to you, probably sounding like a broken record or something, “If anybody needs anything, anytime, Finola, I really mean it, and it’s not just now that I’m going through it.  I really mean it.”  And I said it over and over again and I always felt as though ....  It’s like you know when you’re saying, you’re sympathising with somebody because there’s a death in the family and it feels hollow.  You know, you feel as though, “I’m saying horseshit here,” and that’s the way I felt every time I was saying it to you.  So I couldn’t stress it enough.  “I will and I’m going to say the same thing to John.”  And I feel as though that was an opportunity for me to go, “See.  I meant it.  And I will.  And I will always.”  Because I did.  I felt really strongly about the...  the feelings and the feeling of injustice, even though I got justice.  It’s still...  because it does, it leaves you with scars.

F:  It does.  There is a saying you know: “You quite often don’t get justice.  You get the law.”

L:  That about sums it.  And I know that the law did good by me.  But it doesn’t necessarily feel like that and I can’t imagine what it would feel like if you were up there spilling your guts, telling the truth,  fighting for your life -- because that’s what it feels like.  You’re fighting for life ever since you tried to fight somebody off, whether it be successful or not.  You’re fighting for your life that whole time.  You’re fighting to let people know and to persuade people.  You almost feel as though you’re on stage.  Every time you’re talking with somebody.  Every time you’re trying to rack your brains to think, you know, well what time was it?  What time did you come out?  Where was I?  Did I dangle one arm out the window?  Did I dangle both arms out the window?  ‘Cause so many little things make such a difference, especially when the police are summing up whether you’re telling the truth or not, you know.  And it’s just an incredible feeling of, “He hasn’t been hung, drawn and quartered.”

F: I know.

MT:  It’s so funny though, when your sort of definition of an activist, when we were talking about Finola was, someone that stands up and does things for other people, and I would see that as what you have done.  Do you know what I mean?  I mean if you look at the root of activist, you got active and did something and are continuing to do something.  And I don’t think you should discredit it by saying this just fell in your lap.

F:  It’s also a very,  I think, it’s a very courageous thing to do.  To go through a court case, especially a sexual assault case because you’re baring yourself to these strangers.  It must take a lot of courage I think.  And I would consider you very, very much an activist because you have always been positive about how you can help others now, having gone through the system yourself.

L:  I felt very, very strongly about that.  I did you know.  And I have to say that when we went...  The first day in court that we were told to go and on the second day we went out to lunch and I remember particularly that day thinking, “I’m brave.  I’m doing it and I’m brave.  I don’t necessarily know what’s going on but I know I’ve got my kicking boots on just for myself.”  I wasn’t going to let myself down.  I wasn’t going to...  See I don’t know what I would have done if they had come in and said, “Not guilty.”

F:  There’s no point in even thinking about that.

L:  Not at this stage.

F:  That can go running around in your head forever so I mean just don’t even think about it ‘cause it didn’t happen.

L:  But then I wonder if I could do what you do at all because I don’t know whether I...  The patience, the drivel for instance, you know...

MT:  Maybe because of being a victim yourself you might not be able to sit and...

L:  No, because I was thinking, “This is drivel.  They’re talking nonsense.  What is this about?  Cut to the punch.”  But it’s mad because you feel so much more tolerance for your own barrister and what he’s saying.

F:  You’re biased.

L:  Yeah, completely.

F: Well you have to be.

L:  And I just thought, “Who is listening to him [the defence attorney]?  Who’s going to stand up and say ‘Would you ever shut the...?’ ‘Cause I’m not allowed, ‘cause I’m the chief witness.  I can’t do it.  But will somebody for God’s sake spare us this crap?”  And I really did feel that.  And you feel that it’s so time consuming.  It is.  It’s just getting away from the facts and the points and at that stage you’re just craving more the facts.  And you want everybody to know the facts and you feel that they’re listening to nonsense.  And then there’s so many other things that the policemen have put so much time and energy into.  Into working with myself and Andrew with regards to details, which we were so good at because we were both there so our statements obviously, because we weren’t lying, they were just interwoven.  They were perfect.  Apart from the fact that I didn’t know the time, but he was spot on with times.  And stupid little details -- because I was drunk so I wasn’t you know working out whether the curtains were closed or open when I was getting into bed.  I was just, “Right, I’m getting into bed.”   So there were loads of little things that tied together that, you know, Guilty Boy, in his statements to the police, had messed up on completely.  And we were just waiting for all these things that would have shown it for what it was to come out.  But my barrister decided not to bring them up and his barrister obviously avoided them.  And my barrister dwelt on something that I was kind of like, “What?  What are you going down that road for?”  Because you feel as though you’re such an authority on it and somebody else is taking over, so there’s a real lack on control as well.

F:  There is yes.  You have no control over it at all.

L:  And if you were to get up there you just know that you would do such a good job that the jury would come to a verdict without a shadow of a doubt because it’s just...  You’d be living it.

MT:  It sounds like a nightmare to me to actually...  That loss of control feeling which is always one of the hardest things in life to deal with... I do feel we’re missing some background on Victim Support. How large an organisation is this?  Does it exist internationally?  How would someone get involved?

F:  First of all it’s a voluntary organisation.  A charitable company.  We’ve been in Ireland for about twelve years but it is almost world-wide.  It’s certainly in the States and Canada.  It’s in Great Britain, it’s in Europe, it’s in Australia, New Zealand, fairly world-wide.  What we do basically is to give practical support and emotional support to victims of crime.  We also lobby statutory bodies and the judiciary to bring about change so that the plight of the victim is brought to the fore and improved from the judicial point of view.

People can join Victim Support just by phoning up the head office and the phone number is in the phone book under Victim Support.  Just ask for an application form and they’ll send it out and it goes from there.  The application form is quite detailed.  Our training is pretty intense.  We dwell a lot on listening skills because we’re basically a listening service.  We’re not there to tell people what to do.  We’re there to listen and support.  And that is the important thing really.  The work I do is in the court service.  So what we do is we support someone during a trial.  We’re there for them.   We’ll tell them hopefully if we meet them beforehand, as it goes along anyway, we explain the procedures.  We explain what’s going on.  We explain what job, what people do in the courtroom.  We explain if a point of law comes up why are the jury going out.

We also have a  very good working relationship with the staff in the courts.  We’ve a good working relationship with quite a lot of the judges and the barristers.  So we are very comfortable there.  We are in our own you know being there, we’ve been there lots of times, whereas a victim witness, it’s their first time in courtroom.  It’s very strange, it’s very intimidating and it’s very impersonal.  So we’re there.  They can ask anything they like.  If we don’t know the answer, I will always say, “I don’t know but I’ll try and find out for you,” because quite often we’re not going to know everything.  And you get some very, very weird and strange questions.  But we’re there and it’s just the fact that they know that we know what’s going on.

And it’s quite often much easier for them to talk to a stranger than it is maybe their family or their friends because they’ve heard it all for so long that they get tired of listening to it sometimes.  And we’re fresh ears I think.  And that is an extra help.  Plus the fact that we emphasise it’s a confidential service.  So anything they say to us won’t go any further.  I think it’s important that people are comfortable with you and it will happen that maybe somebody doesn’t like you.   Well that’s fin, as long as they say it we can get somebody else in to take over.  I mean you can’t instantly get on with everybody all the time.  Life doesn’t work like that you know.  So it’s to make the witness as comfortable as possible.

But we also have other services.   We have the Tourist Victim Support Service, which looks after tourists who have become victims in Ireland.  And all of the people who work in that, again it’s on a voluntary basis, would have a second or third language.  And all those referrals come from the police will refer all those victims to the Tourist Victim Support.  We get our referrals from the police, from barristers, from some self-referrals, some from social workers, that would be the usual way we get our referrals.  There’s also another service that is called The Family of Murder Victims.  And they have gone through a two year training course.  They were all members of Victim Support and they still are members of Victim Support but they specialise in this.  And they will move in and support a family after a murder, when everything is completely in trauma.  You know, maybe they haven’t even found, accused anybody of this.  But there are also sordid details that you wouldn’t think of because you’re so shocked when something like that happens because a sudden death is far more shocking than somebody lingering and dying for months.  It’s always shocking when somebody dies but a sudden violent death is even more shocking.  So that’s another service we have.  We have the Hospital Support Service where when somebody presents themselves in casualty having been the victim of a crime ‘cause they’ve been mugged or whatever.  The sister in charge will refer them to us, if she feels they need support.  And we have a twenty-four hour help-line which is available, that’s in the phone-book too.  It’s manned obviously twenty-four hours a day.  And also the core work we do really is visitors visiting people in their home who have been victims of crime.  And it really is a community based.  There would be branches in different counties, most counties in the country now.  And all those referrals come from the police.  They’ll give us a list and then people are sent out to visit them.  Now quite often people don’t need support.  Most of them would be residential burglaries, but some people are quite traumatised by having their house burgled.  Some people aren’t.  But that is the core of our work.

L:  It dawned on me when you were saying...  there’s such a sense when you’re in court or when you’re just hanging around outside, that even when I went to the Four Courts in Dublin...  There’s wigs and pinstripe trousers and suits trotting all around the place.  And heels.  And everybody knowing where they’re going and knowing their stuff and laughing and talking and doing their jobs -- and you don’t have a clue what’s going on.  And with Finola there, there was a sense of: she knew.  It was her domain as much as it was theirs and it takes...  They can be very, very, very intimidating.  They wouldn’t be if you were there for another reason, if it was...  You’d be all eyes if you were there for a parking fine or something but it’s completely different.  And they are very intimidating because you’re so stressed and so wired up and so vulnerable.  And to have the feeling of somebody else there with knowing eyes and standing there relaxed, comfortable within their surrounding, makes such a big difference.  It’s almost kind of like...  Because it gives you the kind of strength to almost mimic it.  And that’s really important as well.  I noticed that a lot.

MT:  Well it makes you feel like you’re tied into the place as opposed to just being this complete outsider.

L:  Yeah.  Well you’re standing beside somebody with confidence and it almost makes you feel as though, because you’re so hung up on other people and what they think, it... you kind of have this perception of, “Well, they’ll know that I’m a good person because I’m standing here with somebody who knows, who looks like they know what they’re doing and they’re comfortable within these surroundings.  She’s here for a reason and I’m here with her or him or whoever it is.”  And all of these little things are so important because if they’re not there you’d know that weren’t there.  You really would.  So I just can’t comprehend how...  I can’t comprehend that I almost didn’t know about Victim Support.  Because otherwise it would have been... it was a nightmare and it would have been...

F:  I think it’s a shame that we’re not pushed more by the police because I don’t think they realise what we do.  It’s only when they’ve come through a trial with us that they sort of turn around and say, “God, I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

L:  John said the very same thing.

F:  I mean they do.  They’ll say it to you.  At the end of a trial, whether it’s a good or bad result, it doesn’t matter.  They’ll say, “Thank you very much for being there because it was a great help for us.”  Now they’ll go back and say, next time something happens in their station, say, “Oh, right, we need Victim Support.  It takes a load of worry from our shoulders.”  So it really is I suppose word of mouth.  We’ve an excellent...  the State solicitor, in the Four Courts, now is wonderful because he keeps giving us cases.  I mean a trial will start the first day, he’s onto Pat that evening and saying,  “Pat, I think definitely this poor girl needs support.”  So we’d be going in the second day of the trial but at least we’ll be there for the rest of it.  He’s very, very good.  And you know, we’ve been lucky that way, that we have got known  because we never make any waves.  We are very, very careful to follow procedures, and to be unobtrusive.  And they appreciate now that we do actually help during a trial to keep people as calm as they can be.  And it does, it certainly makes things go, for everybody, it goes better.

MT:  So do you think, do you wanna just refer people to the phone book or do you wanna actually give numbers?  Maybe it would be best to give the number to volunteer but also maybe the number, the help-line number.

F:  Sure yeah.  The help-line number is 1800-661771 and the...  if somebody wants to become a volunteer, or is a victim, it doesn’t make any difference, the head office number is 01-8780870.  So either of those numbers for either victims or people who are interested in joining the organisation will get results hopefully.

MT: Is there any points that either of you feel like haven’t been covered and really want to talk about?

F:  Just to get it across to people who are going to go through a trial that our service is there.  I think it’s important and I think that they would benefit from having somebody with them during a trial, because quite a lot of rape victims won’t even have told their families, so they’re completely alone.  As I say all rape cases come to Dublin from all over the country.  Certainly when we started off first, five years ago, six years ago I’m sure I supported at least three or four victims who had nobody with them.  Just on their own apart from witnesses, and again the witnesses mostly will be guards because there’s usually no witness to a rape anyway.  So you know it’s very sad.  Not so much now.  In the last few years I notice families are being involved.

L:  I don’t know.  I just feel that it should be almost like a household name like Childline or something and it isn’t.  And I feel like why isn’t it?  You know, I feel a real urgency for people to know about it because you never know when you’re going to need it and it just isn’t that kind of household name.  Like Childline or the ISPCC or the ISPCA, they all roll off your...  but I didn’t know about it and I had been a victim for quite some time until I decided to tell my friends and they were able to tell me and they knew because of their situation.  So that was completely word of mouth.  Whereas it needn’t have been that way.

F:  We have written to all the State solicitors all around the country.  You know, unless we just go down to each one and shake them and they’ll know we’re here...  We have written to them.  The letters are supposed to go out with all the summonses.

MT:  I think your idea that you mentioned before of writing an article, I think you really should do it.  Because I think if people did see something, especially from your perspective, published, people would be talking about it, thinking about it, they would hear the idea of Victim Support.  I think it would be brilliant.

F:  But again, Melissa, not a lot of victims want the world to know what has happened to them.  So, we are very careful.  I would never have approached Lorna at all except I know her now and felt Lorna is the type of person who I thought would like to do something like this -- and I was right.  But there was no pressure on you at all to do it.

There have been other victims that I’ve supported that I wouldn’t dream of approaching at all.  Again, it’s an individual, it’s up to, it’s an individual thing and you know at the end of a trial  how they are.  And sometimes you say goodbye to them and you say, “Oh God, will you ever be all right?” you know.  Because you feel, will they ever, ever heal?  There’s one girl that I supported, I think it was the very first or maybe the second rape trial we were on and one of my colleagues met her say three years afterwards and she was saying to this colleague of mine how grateful she was to have somebody in court with her.  But she said, “I’m as bad now as I was then.”  And that was three years down the road. Having had a conviction and everything, she was not recovering.  But again, we’re all individuals and people cope with things in their own ways and some people don’t cope with them at all unfortunately.  But that’s not their fault.  They don’t have coping skills.   And there isn’t enough help out there either really.

MT:  I don’t know.  If people were to hear more about cases, especially if they heard a case of someone who didn’t get any better and three years down the road was still suffering and still angry or depressed or whatever, that would be really important ‘cause then maybe five other people might hear that story and go, “Oh, so I’m not the only one”.

L:  Yes.  You do have  a sense of, “God if only I could talk for a week non-stop to somebody who knows what I’m talking about,”  and you just keep thinking, “So when is this going to end?”   And I remember asking Finola, knowing that it was an impossible question but just feeling the frustration of people saying to me, “Oh, it’ll take nine months,” or, “It’ll take two years,” and I’d be like, “Well how long?”  And they’d say something and it wasn’t quite what I wanted to hear.  Or else I’d feel, “It’s not going to take me that amount of time,” and at the end of the day you do have to take your own time.  And you do have to either, you know, stay in for a long time or go out for a long time.  I really felt this urgency to know, “Right, OK, so the trial is over, so is it a week’s time or three week’s time before I stop feeling like a lunatic?”  And of course it didn’t.  It actually got worse before it got better.   Because there’s so much hype and so much going on in your head throughout the trial that you kind of get through.  And then when you know you should feel relaxed it’s like you can’t get rid of that feeling of impending doom, this thing that’s coming, that’s going to hang over you.  And you walk around with the same feeling and you kind of go, “What am I feeling like this for?” so you try to shake it off but it’s not going because you’ve still got all the junk that goes with it.

F:  You were so angry with yourself afterwards, that you weren’t over it.  I think you sort of thought a little switch would go off now and, “I’ll be fine.”  And I remember going out and we were talking and you were just so angry with yourself.

L:  I was, yeah.  I was really beating myself up.  Really.  Because I couldn’t understand it.  I couldn’t understand what had happened to Lorna.  Why is she feeling and thinking all these things?  And why can’t she feel that she can relate to anybody? And why does she feel as though she has to pretend even?  And that’s when the honesty thing started.  And you do have...  There are so many kick-offs you know, on account of it that just different things start happening and... And then when you read about post traumatic stress you suddenly kind of go, “God,”  So I think it’s very important for somebody even to tell you, “Here.  Here’s a piece of paper.  Read this.”  And all they have to do is read it and they’ll kind of go, “God.  It’s really infuriating and I still don’t want it to be happening to me but at least that’s normal.  Oh, so it’s post-traumatic stress.”  You can put a label on it, you can put a name on it.  You can say, “I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress and I’ve had a really shitty time.”  And it’s just any kind of recognition that you can relate to makes you feel, not better, but that you understand a little bit more and it’s that whole understanding that you’ve been...  You don’t understand why it happened.  You don’t understand what’s happening in court.  You don’t understand why people are all walking around the place looking as if they know what they’re doing and they don’t even know you.  So it’s lack of understanding and lack of control and all the things that bring on the aftermath you know, which is not very nice.

MT:  When you said the thing of, “What happened to Lorna,” that reminded me that I never did ask these questions, of do you know what your name means and how do you feel about your name?  That’s something I’m asking everyone I interview.

F:  She’s passing it over to me.  Well, my name is Finola, in case you’ve all forgotten at this stage.  It’s...  I like my name because, not because it’s particularly Irish which it is actually.  It’s a very old Irish name.  It’s a name which comes from Irish legends, the daughter of King L.  There’s a story about King Lír who had four children, he’d one daughter and three sons, and he married a second time and the wicked stepmother banished, put a spell on the four children and banished them to live on three lakes, different lakes in Ireland for three hundred years on each lake.  Turned them into swans.  And because we’re living in good holy Catholic Ireland the story goes at the very end that after nine hundred years these four swans swim up to the edge of the lake and St. Patrick is preaching at the lakeside and he blesses the swans and their feathers fall off and they become human forms and he baptises them and that’s the story.  I think it was probably a load of codswallop.  No, it is actually an old name from legend, Irish legend, and I think it’s quite a nice name, except people get it wrong all the time.  I’m called all sorts of things.  Fionnuala, Nuala, Fiona.  Anyway.  I like my name.  So now it’s your turn.  Lorna looked up my name in some book so now you can tell.

L:  No, it was over the Internet actually.

F:  Over the Internet.  Oh yes.

L:  Today.  And wrote it down.  And then forgot to bring it with me.  But yours, they said it was a derivative of some Irish name which is like Finella or something like that.  And so I had to go back and look up this name to find out that it meant “white shoulder” and I thought that was really apt.  And I thought, well my name is Lorna in case you’ve all forgotten, and I suppose I don’t really know how I felt about my name.  I kind of, I quite like it.  It’s just a kind I suppose a non-pretentious but original enough name.  But the only thing I can really relate it to is like Lorna Doone, the famous Scottish bonny lass.  But when I looked mine up I wasn’t too happy with the meaning.  But having said that I’ve read loads of different meanings for it and I can’t remember what they are.  But it was “solitude” or, and then “solitude, oblique, alone” as far as I can remember.  I remembered more about Finola’s than I did about my own.

F:  Well you didn’t like yours.  You didn’t like what they were saying about yours I think.

L:  Yeah, but I thought that was actually really interesting because it’s kind of not related to anything at all but at the same time I just thought...

MT:  I just think it’s fascinating how, because you even said like, in a way you were saying, that’s what makes you an activist: “I’m gonna say my name.”  I mean because you were talking about how you were having this dilemma about whether to put your name on it -- and that became a deciding factor in your mind about wanting to be a part of speaking out, doing something and changing things.  So I think that ties in really nicely in the end.

L:  Lorna “Activist.”  What does Melissa mean?

MT:  She was the goddess of honey and honey bees in Greek mythology and I didn’t know that until maybe I was about twenty.   And I love it now and it’s just become...  Whereas because my whole life I always thought my name just didn’t suit me because I knew it was Greek and so I thought, “I’m so fair.  I’m not exotic.  I’m not somehow interesting enough to have this name.”  And I guess ‘cause I was going through a really sort of insecure part of my life, my name became really important and I decided, “I am going to be this name.  It’s my name.  I like it.  I want it to be mine.”  But I always felt this separation between who I was and this name that was on me, and then they sort of came together.

L:  Actually it is quite important when I think about it because my ex-boyfriend Andrew, his second name was Hutchinson, and his sister was called Lorna as well which lead to loads of confusion.  But I felt really strongly that I did not want to be another Lorna Hutchinson.  I was not going to become Lorna Hutchinson when there was already a Lorna Hutchinson, and I was really, “I am going to hang onto my name,” so it would have been a really long double-barrelled name.

MT: The last question I have is what...   Do you have any heroines or role models?  Because I am convinced that you two are both incredibly powerful, strong, active women, and I’m just curious  like because I feel there is generally a lack of positive women role models in the world.   So I like to ask women who I’m interviewing if there have been any women along the way, who have really inspired you?

F:  I wouldn’t think I have a particular role model in mind or heroine.  I suppose some women in my life would have impressed me.  One person I would think in particular and I suppose being in school was my headmistress.  She was an extremely forward thinking woman.  She was a nun but she was excellent.  Really for her time I think, looking back, that she was a very, very forward thinking woman and maybe gave us the confidence to be forward looking ourselves.  That you know, you could do anything if you set your mind to it.  She was that sort of a woman.  Completely out of her time.  And I think a lot of my friends from school would say the same thing about her.  That she certainly would have, I wouldn’t say affected what I did in life, but she was instrumental in pushing me or putting me on a path -- because she insisted to my parents that I should go to France for a year when I left school.  And that certainly changed my life.  So I would think that she did in her way affect my life.  And I certainly would admire her.  But then when you’re young you never actually go back to somebody and say, “You know, I think you’re great.”  We were dreadful.  I mean youth is so selfish.  It’s only as I’ve got older that I realised.  And I never told her that.  But that happens all the time in life.  We regret that we didn’t say things to people and they’re gone now.

MT:  Lorna, are there any particular women that stick out in your mind?

L: I had I suppose a bit of a problem thinking about that as well because I kind of thought no, there aren’t really.  God knows there are enough of them but there’s nobody that I’ve kind of talked about before.  There’s nobody that I feel...  the one person that I did think about was my father’s mum, my granny or Nana as I called her.  And Nana was just very vivacious and again very open.  Very little shocked her.  I mean she mightn’t have been up to date necessarily with what was going down for you but she’d have a certain understanding of the predicament, whether it be kind of like a romantic nonsense bullshit going down, you know, and she’d go, “Oh, God love her, she’s only sixteen,” but she’d kind of cajole it out of you in a friendly way.  But I know she was always very... no matter what your religion, because she came from an old-fashioned background, where Catholics were Catholics and Protestants were Protestants, and they weren’t supposed to mingle too much...  She introduced a lot of people to each other and made them understand each other through music -- ‘cause it was just like anybody can enjoy music.  It doesn’t matter a damn who you are.  She really took the attitude, “You’re all the bloody same as each other you know, when you’re standing behind each other in a queue,” getting your egg rations or whatever it was. That was her attitude.

Everybody always hugged her.  Everybody was always physical with her and she was this huge woman with big breasts but the most delicate spindly little legs and beautiful hands and she was elegant and smelt beautifully and everybody just kind of went, “woooooooh,” you know, and, “Ruth,” and they’d hang on to her passionately.  And I remember that a lot when I was young, the fact that like it didn’t matter who you were or where you were from.  And whenever you introduced her to anybody, any friends, she was always the same with them that she would be with you.  She really wanted to welcome everybody.  But it’s not that I was kind of ever preoccupied with it or that I spoke about it loads, but I suppose I like her frame of mind.  Just the openness of it and that people are people really at the end of the day.

MT: I think that’s great.  You both started off saying--

F: We both said we didn’t have any!



Victim Support Helpline: 1800-661771. For more info about Victim Support, call 01-878-0870 or email: info@victimsupport.ie.

Other transcripts with information about rape and sexual assault:

Pádraigín Drinan, solicitor
Caroline Rowan, women's studies student


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