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'I am a victim but I'm no longer your victim' - abuse survivor

Brave Pamela tells others ‘please don’t suffer in silence’

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Pamela McLoughlin

Pamela McLoughlin

Pamela McLoughlin

A brave child sex abuse survivor faced down her attacker in court yesterday and told him: "You took my childhood away from me."

Pamela McLoughlin made the comments at Wicklow Circuit Court at the sentencing hearing of sex offender Kenneth Tracey from Blessington.

Speaking to the Herald after the hearing, Ms McLoughlin said: "It is a relief to finally have my voice heard", revealing that Tracey will be sentenced at the court next Thursday on the day of her birthday.

Father-of-two Tracey (48) was granted bail pending his sentence finalisation next week after pleading guilty to seven sample charges of indecent assault against Ms McLoughlin (37) between July 1987 and July 1991, when she was aged between four and eight.

He was aged 15 when the abuse started and this continued until after his 19th birthday.

The facts of the case were outlined by Detective Garda Patrick Twomey, of Blessington Garda Station, who explained that the sexual abuse happened at Tracey's family home in Rockypool Crescent in the Co Wicklow town.

Tracey and Ms McLoughlin's mothers were almost next-door neighbours and on friendly terms, which meant the victim's mother visited the property with her daughter a number of times every week.

The detective estimated that there were at least 100 incidents of sexual abuse which happened on an almost weekly basis every time she visited the house.

The sexual abuse began in July 1987 when Ms McLoughlin was aged just four and continued until around the time that she made her first Holy Communion.

Det Gda Twomey explained that it was around this time that the child had heard a radio advertisement about sexual abuse and then realised that she had been the victim of this crime.

She went to her mother and talked about what had happened to her and from that time on she did not visit Tracey's home or have any more contact with him. However, no complaint was made to gardai at that stage in 1991.

The garda pointed out that the sexual abuse had two main forms - one was the then teenage Tracey placing the child's hands on his erect penis, while the other most common form of abuse she suffered was when he placed his hands inside her underwear and fondled her.

Harrowing evidence of a number of specific incidents were outlined, including an occasion when he spread the child's legs and then pretended to take a photograph of her.

On another occasion, the victim had been playing with her cousin when Tracey called her into a bedroom and then grabbed her arm but she screamed and he allowed her to leave.

Counselling

Det Gda Twomey explained that Ms McLoughlin grew up and went to Australia in 2009 with her then husband and while there she attended counselling.

Ms McLoughlin then made a complaint about the childhood sexual abuse to police in Sydney, who passed the information to gardai.

She came back home in August 2015 and made a complaint to gardai at this stage.

In December 2015, Tracey was first interviewed by appointment at Blessington Garda Station, stating that he had "no knowledge of the accusations".

Tracey was charged with multiple counts of indecent assault in July 2016, but did not plead guilty to the offences until last November at Wicklow Circuit Court when he was placed on the sex offenders register.

His defending barrister pleaded for leniency for his client, stating that he had no previous criminal convictions and had a history of depression and anxiety and two suicide attempts since being charged with the offences.

A number of specialist medical reports were offered to the court outlining his low-level IQ, one of which stated that the sex offender has "difficulty answering complex questions" which could lead to difficulties if he has to interact with other prisoners in a jail environment.

His lawyer told the court that Tracey felt shame, regret and remorse about his actions.

A letter from his brother was also read to the court, which outlined Tracey's paranoid behaviour and "lonely existence".

After hearing all the evidence, Judge Patrick Quinn said he would not make a decision on the case yesterday and adjourned it to next Thursday.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms McLoughlin told the Herald that she did not accept that Tracey had remorse, pointing out that he did not plead guilty for well over three years after being first charged with the indecent assault offences.

Earlier, in a moving victim impact statement in court, she spoke about the childhood impact of the abuse, the anger and isolation she felt, the depression and anxiety it caused her, the paranoia she feels about her own son's safety and her severe difficulties with the Irish justice and criminal process.

She outlined the breach of trust she had suffered from Tracey, who was more than 11 years older than her, and spoke about the horrific impact the abuse had had on her family, as well as her hopes for moving forward with her life.

"I am a victim but I am no longer Kenneth Tracey's victim. He can never hurt me again and I hope he never has the opportunity to hurt anyone else again either," she said.

"When it comes to the sexual abuse and molestation of children, we all need to step up to the plate and make a difference," she wrote in the impact statement which she read to the court.

"I hope that by coming forward and speaking out, I can encourage others who may be suffering in silence to come forward too, and in doing so take a stand against childhood sexual abuse.

"It is not easy but if speaking out prevents even one person from going through what I did then it will have been worth it."

Addressing Tracey directly, she said: "You took my childhood away from me. Some of my first memories are of you and what you did to me. I can't get that time back.

"I want you to know the severity of the impact the experience of sexual abuse has had on my life. I will be paying for your behaviour for the rest of my life. I am never going to fully get over it."

Predator

She also told the court that she believed Tracey still poses a danger to children.

"He was a predator and I am not convinced that he no longer is. His late guilty plea has not shown me any empathy," she said, pointing out how difficult it was to live in the same community as him and the devastation that he had caused her family, whom she paid tribute to for their support.

Ms McLoughlin also hit out at the justice system.

"I feel like I have been re-victimised. The case is before the courts since June 2016. The accused pleaded guilty in November 2019. That is a period of three years and five months.

"During this period I have felt isolated as a victim. I have not been offered access to any of the free services that the accused has been given access to," she said before paying tribute to investigating detective Patrick Twomey.