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Saturday 15 December 2018

'One month sentence is far too lenient - I thought Fitzpatrick was going to kill me'

Sarah Behan, who was a victim of domestic abuse by Fair City's Patrick Fitzpatrick
Sarah Behan, who was a victim of domestic abuse by Fair City's Patrick Fitzpatrick
Patrick Fitzpatrick

A young mother thought she was going to die when former Fair City actor Patrick Fitzpatrick punched and choked her during a brutal attack at her home.

Fitzpatrick (29), who played Carrigstown villain Zumo Bishop in the RTE soap, has been jailed for a month for assaulting former girlfriend Sarah Behan.

His sentence comes only two months after he was spared a prison sentence for punching and biting another former partner.

For the first time, Ms Behan (32) has decided to speak out about her horrific ordeal at the hands of the thug.

She described how, nearly two years on, the beating she endured still haunts her seven-year-old son who saw Fitzpatrick repeatedly "punch, choke and drag" her through her home.

It is now the Blanchardstown mother's goal to urge other victims of domestic abuse to speak out.

Evil

"We were together for just over a year," Ms Behan told the Herald.

"He started out as the model boyfriend, making me feel so lucky to have him in my life, but I very soon came to realise that he had a very evil streak to him.

"He was getting treatment for alcohol problems at the time, but that didn't stop him from exploding into fits of rage on a regular basis."

Although, the mum-of-one was often on the receiving end of his violent outbursts, she never imagined the terrifying attack that was in store for her.

"It was the day of the All- Ireland final and we went to our local pub to watch the match," she said.

"My mum and my son, who was five at the time, came with us, along with a good few friends of ours.

"At one point an ex-boyfriend of mine came up and said, 'Hello', and I introduced him to Patrick.

"It was all very innocent and I thought nothing of it - until I got home.

"As soon as we stepped inside the door, Paddy told my son to get his pyjamas on.

"He then pinned me against the wall and asked what the hell was going on between me and my ex-boyfriend.

"The look in his eyes was of complete anger, and he demanded that I give him my mobile phone.

When I handed it over, he told me that I would not be needing it any more - then he flushed it down the toilet.

"My son was very frightened and tried to come out of his room, but Patrick held the door closed, shouting at him to stay inside.

"He then ran at me and started hitting me as hard as he could. I was dragged back into the sitting room and kitchen where he continued to beat me."

Survival

Ms Behan ran towards the window to scream for help and contemplated jumping from the second floor to save herself.

"I thought I would have a better chance of survival if I threw myself out. I thought he was going to kill me.

"Thankfully, the neighbours started coming out, realising what was going on.

"But he dragged me back inside and began choking and punching me once again."

Her son then came running into the sitting room in an attempt to protect his mother.

"I dived on top of my son on the couch to save him from the blows, but he was hit several times on the face and in the head."

Using another mobile, the brave mum managed to call gardai before dropping it on the window sill in the hope they could track her location.

"I then managed to get to the front door and down the stairs, screaming for someone to get my boy.

"Thankfully, one of my neighbours ran up and got him out, taking the two of us to her home, two doors down.

"However, Patrick came after us and tried desperately to kick down the door to get at me."

Ms Behan said that gardai soon arrived and arrested Fitzpatrick.

However, the following day he appeared before Blanch- ardstown Court and was released.

It was not until two years later that Ms Behan saw justice for her former partner's crimes, which she believes is far from adequate.

"One month in prison is far too lenient and sets a terrible example for those thinking about reporting their abusive partners.

Hell

"Patrick put my son and I through absolute hell. I suffered two busted lips and a badly bruised eye.

"My head was also completely covered in bald spots due to attack.

"But it is the psychological scars that are the worse.

"Sometimes I wake up at night screaming, thinking someone is in my room.

"My son sleeps with me nearly every night because he's terrified about being left on his own.

"He suffers with very bad anxiety and goes into hysterics if he's ever cornered or locked in a room.

"With counselling sessions it's a little better, but the scars of that night still haunt us."

Ms Behan added that the arresting officer, Lisa Lawler, went "above and beyond" her duty to support her.

"She was incredibly nice and helpful and came up to my house in her own time to make sure that I was OK," she said.

"I'm still in contact with her and she has helped us enormously to cope and move on."

Ms Behan said she gets why so many people do not report domestic abuse.

"Unfortunately, it comes with a huge amount of stigma and shame," she said.

"Nobody wants to be perceived as weak, which for me was incredibly hard to admit.

"I see myself as a very confident and strong woman, but I just curled up into a ball when I was abused.

"However, it's so very important that we talk about this issue. Only then do I believe that more victims will come forward and report their abusers to gardai.

"My advice to anyone going through what I endured is to watch out for the early warning signs. If you have any doubt whatsoever, just get out before it goes too far."

Ms Behan's mother, Antoinette, wrote a short poem about the long-lasting effect that domestic abuse has had on her daughter:

"Scars heal, bruises fade, and clumps of hair grow back.

"But what he did that September night - my daughter's not got her mojo back."

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