Copyright 1999 MGN Ltd.
Sunday Mirror
October 24, 1999, Sunday
BYLINE: Amanda Doherty

EVERY time Kate's mother dressed her in her best Sunday clothes, she knew she was about to be taken on a journey of terror.

Kate was three years old when the abuse started and it continued until she was seven.

Three evenings a week the terrified youngster was collected from her home by her uncle and taken to a house on the outskirts of Dublin to be ritually abused.

"I still remember the first time it happened," she said. "It was evening time because it was dark outside and my mother made me dress up in my best clothes.

"I was excited because I thought I was going on an adventure. I was picked up by my aunt and uncle and taken to another house somewhere in Dublin.

"I remember looking out at the city lights and feeling happy because I was out so late. But when I got to the house I became scared because everyone was dressed in dark gowns and hoods.

"I was stripped and made to me lie down on a table in the living room. It was cold and I was absolutely terrified. So I started screaming and shouting for my mother."

During the horrific ordeal Kate was smeared with blood and repeatedly assaulted.

"The terror I felt was indescribable and I was in terrible pain. The table was surrounded by strangers in robes and hoods holding crucifixes, chalices and knives encrusted with jewels.

"They were also chanting in some strange language - it was just horrific."

Kate, 34, does not remember how long her ordeal lasted but she felt a great sense of relief when she was returned home.

"When I came home I thought I was safe. My mother just hugged me tight but didn't say anything. She cleaned me up because I was covered in blood and she put cream on my body where it was sore.

"Then a few nights later it happened again. When I saw my mother bringing out my blue coat and best shoes I started screaming because I knew what would happen next."

Kate tried to speak to her parents about the abuse but her father said she would be taken away if she told anyone about it.

"I was absolutely terrified to speak about it in case I was taken away. Every time I saw my that blue coat being brought out, I'd throw a fit.

"My uncle would knock at the door and then return to the car to my aunt to wait for my father to bring me out. Most times I'd be kicking and screaming and pleading with my parents not to send me away.

"But they said nothing. They just pulled me out to the car. Most times my father had to prise my fingers from the garden gate.

"There were other children in the house where I was abused as well, but I didn't recognise them. Sometimes they would be placed on the table while I was forced to watch.

"I was constantly afraid. I could hardly sleep and I hated going to Mass because every time I saw a crucifix, I'd have a panic attack."

The abuse suddenly stopped when Kate was seven years old, but the terror she felt continued for a long time.

"They just stopped calling for me. But I lived in constant fear that they would knock on the door and take me away. That fear stayed with me until I started counselling when I was 25.

"It was never discussed in the house. My parents acted as if it never happened, but I couldn't escape from the nightmares or the terrible fear." I started sniffing glue when I was eight years old to stop me feeling afraid."

When Kate was 16 she developed anorexia and started using prescription drugs.

"I hated myself, particularly when my body started developing during puberty. I wanted to look like a boy so I ate just enough to stop me from collapsing. I was six-and-a-half stone at my lowest point.

"I also started taking Valium to get rid of the fear I constantly felt. I was a total mental wreck and my parents didn't or chose not to notice. I lived in a house of secrets."

Kate got married when she was 20. But the marriage only lasted two years.

"It was a disaster right from the start. I couldn't bear anyone touching me or getting close to me. Sex terrified and disgusted me. I only got married to get out of my parents' house.

"I dreamt of meeting the perfect man who would help me forget everything from the past. But I didn't love my husband and we eventually got divorced.

"I was 22 then and totally addicted to tranquillisers and I was drinking quite heavily.

"When I was 25 I eventually realised that I was going to die if I didn't sort my life out, so I went to a treatment centre to be assessed.

"This really was the turning point. For the first time in my life I was able to speak to someone about what had happened to me. The best thing was that these people actually listened and understood.

"The relief I felt was enormous - I didn't have to suppress my feelings any more.

"I was able to speak to other people who had been abused and they felt exactly like me. I also realised that what happened wasn't my fault - I was too young to stop it happening.

"I had counselling for four years and eventually I started letting go of the fear. The sessions were extremely hard for me - I think I cried for three years."

Kate eventually confronted her parents about what had happened to her when she was a child. But they refused to talk about it.

"I'm not in contact with them anymore. I used to feel incredibly angry but now I'm just sad because I still love them."

Kate remarried four years ago and has three children of her own.

"I feel happy for the first time in my life. I've told my husband everything and he's so understanding and supportive. I suppose I'm overprotective of my children but I'm still a very loving mother.

"I'm absolutely terrified that something could happen to them. Abuse comes in all shapes and forms. What happened to me was horrific, but I'm learning to deal with it.

"I know that there are many other people out there who have also been abused. But they don't need to suffer in silence because there is help out there."

Sarah Bland from County Laois has battled for years to make the authorities investigate her claims that she was subjected to ritual satanic abuse by an Irish paedophile ring.

She believes her alleged abusers are still on the loose.

The 22-year-old student says she can recall being repeatedly gang-raped from the age of four.

"It went on for two years before my mother took me to Canada. But I had nightmares throughout my childhood.

"I remember lying naked on a dining table surrounded by candles. They would smear blood and then the men would rape me. There was usually about six of them and they were all dressed in suits.

"I remember a younger one very well and I think I could recognise him if I came face-to-face with him now."


A SPECIAL helpline has been set up for victims of ritual rape and Satanic abuse in Ireland.

Terrified victims have contacted Rape Crisis Centres across the country to disclose harrowing tales of ritual abuse and bizarre ceremonies.

Counsellors have called in experts in ritual abuse from England to help set up the helpline.

Twenty women have already sought help and counselling for their ordeals. But experts fear there could be hundreds more too frightened to come forward.

Fiona Neary, national co-ordinator of the Rape Crisis Centres, said the new helpline will be in operation before the end of he year.

"We could be talking about high levels of organised abuse which could almost be beyond the belief of many of the agencies tasked with dealing with this problem.

"But other forms of ritual abuse may not be highly organised - the abusers may be members of the extended family.

"Child sexual abuse is always about power and secrecy. Most sexual abuse of children is organised in some way, to a greater or lesser extent.

"Although it is unrecognised, ritual abuse does take place in Ireland and survivors of this type of abuse live here.

"Elaborate ritual, group activities, religious, magical or supernatural beliefs and practices may be used to terrify and silence children and to convince them of the absolute power of their abusers.

"The purpose of these rituals is to gain and maintain access to children in order to exploit them sexually. There is also evidence that some of the groups would exchange children to other groups abroad.

"People who have been abused in such a way are left absolutely terrified. We believe, from what we are hearing, that most of the abusers were groups rather than individuals, with the vast majority of the abuse taking place within families.

"People who have suffered this type of abuse need specialist care, which is why we are setting up the helpline."

"We have already brought experts over from England to provide the extra training required for the volunteers who will be working on this helpline.

"It is also essential that in order to stop the abuse which is currently taking place and to prevent further abuse, that the causes, nature and extent of physical and sexual abuse is understood."

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