'My life is a living hell', says homeless rape victim Aisling left with nowhere to turn
A brave woman who claims she was raped and fled her hometown in fear of her assailant has been sleeping rough in Dublin, where she has been beaten and bullied.
Courageous Aisling Connolly (28) has waived her right to anonymity to raise awareness of the fact there is no State link-up service for women who become homeless as a result of rape.
She has been sleeping rough on Dublin's streets through the recent freezing conditions and opened up in the hope someone will urgently help her and ensure that this will never happen to another woman going through such trauma.
"It doesn't surprise me things have worked out this way. In Ireland, rape is acceptable. In this country, victims like me are punished. My life is a living hell," Aisling told the Herald.
Aisling, from Longford town, was raped in the Midlands in July. Gardai are investigating the incident.
She fled days after the rape amidst fears of encountering her rapist again.
"I don't want to talk about the person who raped me, but I will say I'm very scared of him and people he knows," she said.
"I was raped in July. I went to the gardai and they brought me to the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in Mullingar.
"I wanted to go home but I couldn't, so I needed to find somewhere else to go, but I didn't have anywhere.
"I asked the gardai did they have a place for me to go but they said they didn't have the power to do that, so I went to Dublin and I've been homeless ever since.
"I arrived in Dublin without my clothes, they were all left at home. I didn't even have a phone charger with me.
"It's disgusting what's been done to me. The person who raped me is probably sitting at home on the sofa all warm and I'm being punished for the rape. I've been going through hell."
Aisling, who grew up in foster care, came to Dublin thinking she had somewhere to stay, but that plan didn't work out and she has been homeless since.
After initially living in hostels, she left the services as she claimed she was bullied and assaulted.
She has spent recent weeks living on the city centre streets, but managed to get a hostel last night as she could not bear another night in the cold.
"It's so cold here on the streets, it would make you cry," she said. "I don't matter anymore. I feel like anyone can do what they want to me now - rape me, beat me, rob me and it's OK.
"People who walk by me think I must have done something wrong to be homeless but I haven't. I came to Dublin, where I've just been sleeping around this city, but I know it's not safe and it isn't right I'm living like this.
"I thought Dublin would have more facilities to help me but that's not how it worked out at all. I moved away for my safety.
"I lived in Dublin years ago, so I thought it was the best choice.
"But I don't have anywhere to go. I stayed in hostels and was beat up and bullied, so I am afraid to go back to them."
Aisling said she doesn't have a family support network to offer her a helping hand.
Her apartment in Longford was her safe haven until the rape.
"Many times I've asked the hostels for help and I tell them I've been beaten up in them before and they tell me this is all they have," she said.
"I end up with people who are off their heads on drugs, who will attack you for little or nothing.
"They are street smart and tough and they see I'm not street smart and think I'm weak. They demand cigarettes off me and, if I don't give them to them, they fight with me."
She said homeless life is cruel. "I end up having a choice of taking a hostel and running the risk of being beaten up or taking the streets, where it's freezing, so cold you can't sleep, but at least I can walk away from trouble.
"I'm not saying all homeless people are bad, they're not, but some have hurt me," she said.
"I couldn't get into a hostel one night, so I went to look for somewhere to sleep on Henry Street.
"This girl asked me for a smoke but I didn't have any to give her, so she started to beat me up while two guys tried to take my bag off my back."