herald

Sunday 17 November 2019

'I used to think I was a waste of space. Now I can be proud' - survivor Terri

Terri Mullarney wants to help others in a similar situation.
Terri Mullarney wants to help others in a similar situation.
Terri as a child with her monster stepfather
Child Rapist Thomas Mullarney

When Terri Mullarney's evil stepfather was sentenced on Monday to 12 years in jail for raping her and sexually assaulting her throughout her childhood, she felt a weight lift from her shoulders.

"The abuse consumes a lot of you," she told the Herald.

"It changes a lot of you. It chips away and eats at you. It takes all of your hobbies, your education, your friendships, your trust, everything."

However, when monster Mullarney was sentenced, "I felt like I took all that power back".

Terri said Mullarney had impacted every day of her life growing up.

Now that he has been jailed, she will not allow another minute of her life to be wasted on him.

Now 22, Terri recalled the manipulation she faced as Mullarney, who she called Dad, abused her from the age of six.

"He's just a scumbag. I was manipulated within an inch of my life," she said.

"I look back and I think I could have enjoyed things so much if I just wasn't around him. And then he was forging that horrible bond where I wouldn't disclose anything.

"When I think back as an adult, looking at myself as a child from an outer perspective, it's so disheartening because you understand as an adult and you can remember the thoughts you had and the self-blame.

"When I was about eight or nine, I was in a dance group. I loved dancing, I loved hip-hop," she said.

Disfigured

"But from what my dad was doing to me - making me watch pornographic videos and having sexual instruments in front of me - it disfigured me.

"I started dancing like the girls in Dad's video and that excluded me from the whole group. So I left dancing and I felt like I left something because of him.

"That wasn't me, it was what he was doing to me."

For an entire year, Terri lived with Mullarney after she was wrongly convinced by her stepfather to report her mother, Sue Gleeson, to social services.

Because of the report - which Terri said she was manipulated into making by Mullarney - she lost contact with her family.

She reconciled with her mother, however, after realising she had been influenced by Mullarney. That was the year he first raped her.

"You want to go back and shake yourself and say, 'Jesus, say something', but I think there's always a right time and a right place. I'm glad it did come out when it came out," she said.

"Obviously, I wish it came out earlier and I didn't go through some of those things, but then again, if it had come out before, I don't think things would be the way they are today.

"He used that to his advantage, manipulating me not to say anything.

"He really masked what he was doing to me with love and making the idea around it all that I was special.

"That's what kept it going for so long, because the more scared that you are, the more they feed off that - it gives them power and they're stronger than you then."

Mullarney (61) was sentenced to 12 years in prison with a further two years suspended.

Originally facing 18 charges, his plea deal saw him admit two counts of rape and four of sexual assault.

The former soldier pleaded guilty to sexual assaults at a house in Dublin between October 2003 and January 2005.

He also admitted raping Terri at his Co Mayo house on two occasions in November 2011 and in September 2014.

Mullarney first came into Terri's life when she was only two-and-a-half.

Her earliest memories as a child are of the abuse she suffered from the age of six. Initially, Mullarney would molest her while he forced her to watch porn and use a vibrator.

When she was 13, in November 2011, Terri's stepfather gave her wine to drink and, after drinking with her, he raped her and did so again on the following day.

Three years later, after Terri confided in Mullarney about a break-up, he gave her tea and half a sleeping tablet and she awoke to find him raping her.

"He's a paedo. He's manipulative and seedy. He was always trying to be young and cool," Terri said.

"I was out with my friends. I was wanting to go drinking because Dad was influencing that in my life. Then Dad would be 'sound' enough to get us a few naggins on the sly, behind Mum's back, and that was such a massive manipulation because I was breaking trust with my Mum for drinking and he was buying the drink.

"I remember him being so worried about the time he raped me two days in a row when I was 13 or 14 that he gave me a contraceptive pill belonging to my mother.

Confusing

"I don't think that I even had my period at that stage, so it was very confusing for me and at the same time hard to deal with just after being raped by your Dad."

Terri comes from a large family. Along with the children of her mother's new partner, there are nine altogether.

The young Dublin woman said it was her mother's new partner, Martin, who helped her to speak about what had happened to her.

After first telling her story to gardai in 2017, Terri says she is now ready to take back her life with the help of her family.

"I love boxing. I started when I was 13 and it's really what encouraged me to come out about everything," she said.

"My mum met her new partner through boxing. He helped me get my Senior League title about six months before I came out about everything - which really gave me confidence.

"I actually told Martin first. He has been a real da to me and shown me what love between a father and daughter should be like.

"It was horrible not telling anyone. It was really lonely. I was in a dark place a lot of the time. I'd blame myself for it and it wasn't until I started maturing and actually listening to what nice people had to say about me that I started to realise that things didn't add up.

"I used to think everyone hated me and I was a waste of space, and I'm not.

"I can finally be proud of myself now.

"I'm so excited for the next 10 years to look back and say, 'God, that's all on my own now, that's my own doing'. I feel amazing. I feel really relieved."

Suffered

Terri, who interviewed for a new job last week - and got it - said she is finally able to move on.

After deciding to keep her abuser's surname and return to her favourite beach down the road from his house, she said: "My name or where I come from didn't rape me, he did.

"Why would I let him take more from me when he's already taken enough?"

Having for the same reason waived her right to anonymity, Terri hopes to continue to help other people in a similar situation to what she was in.

"I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. He's serving 12 years now and I suffered for 12 years, so it's quite fair," she said.

"I really hope to go into helping people who have been abused. I really want to use what has happened to me as something positive.

"I want to let my journey be someone else's guide."

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