'Let me be clear, you did not win' – woman defiant as child rapist jailed

Leona O’Callaghan bravely waived her right to anonymity and chose to confront the man who raped her as a 13-year-old.

The Limerick woman addressed her rapist in court, saying he “forever messed with my mind” and his “warped version of love equals pain” stayed with her all her life.

“You were the first man in my life that told me you loved me. As a young child, you manipulated my mind into believing that the disgusting things you did to me you did out of love,” she said.

Sex offender Patrick O’Dea (52) was yesterday jailed for 17 years for rapes and repeated sexual assaults of the teenage girl, who he manipulated and groomed.

The now 37-year-old Ms O’Callaghan told him: “After using my small, innocent body to satisfy your own needs, you sent me home bleeding, sore, confused, ashamed, traumatised and sworn to secrecy.”

She told the Central Criminal Court that O’Dea “got inside my head and messed it up”.

“For a long time, you had me scared out of my wits. How I wish I could go back and give that paranoid, frightened child a hug,” she added.

“I soon learnt to go along with it, to do what you ask, to zone out, close my eyes and pray that it’s over soon and I get to stop feeling the pain and disgust.

“Now, 20 years later, I still don’t get to fully escape. I don’t get a choice about remembering because my mind takes me there when I’m alone.”

She also told O’Dea that “although rape is a physical assault, the worst damage that you did was not to my body but to my mind”.

“You began your manipulation long before you put a hand on me. In order to get me to a place where I would keep your dirty secrets, you isolated me from the people I loved and got inside my mind in a way I still don’t fully understand,” she said.

She also said that she had suffered from depression and had tried to take her own life.

However, Ms O’Callaghan spoke of her pride that, despite the trauma inflicted upon her, she got 515 points in her Leaving Cert and had worked hard to set up her own business.

She told O’Dea: “So in a nutshell, despite standing here with my heart on my sleeve and admitting the effect you have had on me, let me be clear, you did not win.”

And she added: “I stand here today and put my faith in the court to hold you to account for what you did. I pray it will be a very long time before you are left walk the same streets as me, open to repeat your acts on any other vulnerable child.

“I wouldn’t wish the damage you have caused me on my worst enemy.”

She sobbed in court as Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy read excerpts from the victim impact statement before sentencing O’Dea.

O’Dea, also known as ‘Whacker’, of Pike Avenue, Limerick, pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial at the Central Criminal Court to charges of sexual assault and rape on dates in 1994 and 1995.

O’Dea’s 42 previous convictions include a single sexual assault on another girl aged under 10. He received a 15-year sentence for multiple rape and sexual assaults of a girl over a six-year period between 1998 and 2004. He continues to maintain his innocence of these charges.

Speaking to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan on RTÉ’s ‘Claire Byrne Live’ last night, Ms O’Callaghan said rapists who were given concurrent sentences for raping more than one victim were essentially getting away with a “free rape”.

“When two separate people are raped and two crimes have occurred, it feels as though one of those rapes is kind of a free one when the concurrent thing comes up,” she said.

“So, for example, the 15 years that he got for another girl will run the same time as [mine] and I’m just wondering which one of us was the free rape?”

In response, Mr Flanagan said he was open to reviewing the system, but added: “It is open to the court when you have a consecutive sentence or a concurrent sentence having regard to the circumstances of the case.

“I don’t as minister interfere with the independence of the judge as far as the imposition of a sentence is concerned.”

The court heard that O’Dea came into contact with Ms O’Callaghan while she was hanging out with her older sister and friends in the Garryowen area of Limerick.

Ms O’Callaghan later told gardaí that O’Dea “latched himself onto the group” and started to focus on her, giving her special attention. He first sexually assaulted her at a local waste ground.

Garda Manton said that, at Halloween in 1994, he asked her to perform a sex act on him. He then raped her in the graveyard after putting his coat under a tree and telling her to lie down on it. She tried to get back up, but he got hold of her hands and she continued to say she didn’t want to.

Later he suggested they meet at a shed at the back of his mother’s home. He raped her on a mattress.

Gda Manton said in 1996 O’Dea told Ms O’Callaghan he wanted to see what it was like to have sex in a bed. He then raped her in his bedroom while his mother was in the sitting room. This was the final incident. Gda Manton said Ms O’Callaghan told a teacher what was going on and her parents were contacted.

Yesterday, Ms Justice Murphy imposed a sentence of 18-and-a-half years on O’Dea. She suspended the last 18 months in recognition of his plea of guilty and his willingness to take part in a psychological assessment.

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