When singer Duffy recently revealed she was kidnapped and raped during a ten-year hiatus in her pop career, some cynics questioned why she didn’t come forward sooner. TheCity.ie’s Paul Caffrey investigates why many rape victims in Ireland find it so hard to report their ordeal — and sometimes, never tell anyone of their experience
Aimee Duffy burst onto the music scene in 2008 with a top-selling album that made her one of the most celebrated singers of her generation — only to disappear from the world stage two years later after a less successful follow-up.
Now the Welsh singer, known simply as Duffy, has revealed to her fans how — at some point during the past decade — she was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a frightening ordeal that she’s only starting to come to terms with now.
And even though her true fans have been highly supportive and understanding following her shocking Instagram revelation of recent days, the Rain On Your Parade songstress quickly fell victim to cruel online cynics who questioned why exactly she chose to come forward now.
One Twitter post read: “So why not come forward sooner?…Being brave would be coming forward as soon as it happened. It’s not like she’s a child. She’s a grown woman. Should have gone to police immediately.”
While it’s easy to claim they should simply be ignored, those comments point to a significantly misinformed section of the public who are sadly unwilling — or incapable — of seeing sexual violence from the victim’s point of view.
Without revealing when exactly her ordeal took place, Duffy — who shot to fame in her mid-20s and is now 35 — wrote on social media:
“The truth is…I was raped and drugged and held captive over some days. Of course I survived. The recovery took time.”
Fiona Doyle, who was raped by her father Patrick O’Brien for a decade during her childhood — and didn’t feel able to speak up about it for many years afterwards — said those casting aspersions on a vulnerable person struggling with trauma are “stupid and uneducated”.
In an interview with TheCity.ie, Fiona Doyle said victims of rape can’t be expected to go straight to gardaí like victims of other crimes, like a burglary or mugging, may do.
The 52-year-old Wexford woman, who became a household name after waiving her legal right to anonymity in 2013, explained: “It takes so much to get up the courage to come out and talk openly about what happened to you. I can only be so open now because I’ve been through ten years of counselling.”
She went on: “From my experience, first of all you have to get over the blame that you put on yourself. A lot of victims of rape and abuse will question their part in it, which is totally wrong. Whatever the circumstances are, nobody should be in that position of feeling the blame. But it’s easier said than done.”
“What she [Duffy] has done by coming forward publicly is incredibly brave of her. I wish some people wouldn’t be so stupid and uneducated in their remarks because it’s causing more damage than they’ll ever know,” said Doyle.
“These people don’t realise how deep their remarks go. It’s only now, after all my counselling, that I even use the words I should have been using — that I was raped and abused,” she added.
Doyle was abused by her father in the 1970s and 1980s — but she didn’t feel ready to report those appalling crimes until the 1990s when she went to the HSE.
But she says her complaint was never investigated at that stage — and that she was eventually forced to contact gardaí directly herself in 2010.
Patrick O’Brien, now 80, wasn’t brought to justice for his crimes until January 2013. He got a nine-year prison sentence but with remission, he was released last October.
Often, survivors of rape and sexual assault just want counselling initially —but those overburdened services are often difficult to access, Fiona Doyle explains.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre offers a round-the-clock helpline that provides essential — and importantly, confidential — support to survivors when they are ready to talk.
The helpline currently receives over 1,000 calls a month, Noeline Blackwell, Chief Executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, told TheCity.ie.
The DRCC strives to also offer face-to-face counselling free of charge to anyone who needs it. But that vital service is dogged by a lack of funding.
In its latest annual report, released in 2019, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland (RCNI) revealed that keeping the organisation itself in existence is something of a high-wire act — as it relies on funding from the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO) that’s never guaranteed.
At the start of 2019, the RCNI “once again found itself in that critical position of planning for possible closure” because it had to reapply for the crucial SSNO funding that had kept it going from 2016 to 2019, RCNI chairperson Grace McArdle explained in that report.
Even though some victims choose to never make any official report, they still need support behind closed doors.
For those who choose to come forward, there are now specialist Garda sexual violence units that Blackwell says “totally understand there can be many reasons for delay in reporting”. According to Blackwell, however, “any investigating garda” will be equally understanding.
For those who choose to press ahead with a full prosecution, gardaí or Rape Crisis Network of Ireland staff are happy to accompany complainants to court, while the Courts Service also offers on-site Victim Support services during trials.
Rape Crisis Centre staff will also attend the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) with victims.
Blackwell stressed there is no obligation on any victim to come forward immediately or at all — and that gardaí fully understand there can be “many reasons” for a delay in reporting.
The prominent advocate said:
“It’s not about bravery — it’s about when is the right time. The right time is when you have the strength and impetus, and when you feel it should be done.“
She went on: “In these cases it can be a massive step to take to complain about somebody. For some people, they never feel like telling [officially] and that’s okay. Your first duty is to yourself.”
Fiona Doyle said: “For people who have gone through rape and abuse, the counselling services are hard to get.”
Then, there is the daunting prospect of going to court that makes many victims of sex offences very hesitant to come forward.
In April 2018, RCNI legal director Caroline Counihan described exposing complainants to the rigours of the adversarial criminal justice process as “secondary traumatisation”.
In court, the complainant is put through often harrowing cross-examination. Rape victims can leave the witness box feeling that experience was “as bad as, or even worse than, the sexual violence itself,” according to ‘Hearing Every Voice’, an April 2018 report authored by an expert group convened by the RCNI.
The RCNI proposes that a pre-recorded statement to gardaí could instead be played in court, along with some questioning via videolink so that the complainant wouldn’t need to be present in the courtroom.
While a review of rape trial procedures ordered by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in 2018 is currently ongoing, any progress towards reform in this area is extremely slow.
During an astonishing two years in the limelight, Aimee Ann Duffy conquered America and won a Grammy, three Brits and an Ivor Novello award.
The young Welsh woman’s debut album Rockferry was the world’s fourth best-selling album of 2008, and she played a sell-out gig at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre in November of that year. She dropped off the radar in 2010 after her follow-up offering, Endlessly, achieved less success. Now we know why.
Contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24-hour helpline number at 1800 77 88 88 for confidential assistance