‘Report abuse’ urge victims

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Two women who were abused by their brother-in-law more than 30 years ago have said they waived their right to anonymity to encourage other people to report abuse.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ after their abuser was sentenced at Derry Crown Court yesterday, the women said they would advise anyone who has suffered abuse to come forward.

The women were abused by 58-years-old Martin Leonard when they were teenagers. He received an 18 month sentence, six months of which will be spend in custody and a year on Probation.

Leonard was unanimously convicted by a jury of seven charges of indecent assault. The offences were committed between 1977 and 1989.

The victims said the trial process was one of the ‘hardest things of their life.’

They suggested that there should be a support network of victims who could offer support and assistance to people reporting sexual abuse.

“It took us two years to get here. It was a long road and no one can prepare you for it because it is not like television. However, it is possible to get through with it.”

Both women praised the support they received from the Victim Support NI Witness Service during the trial process which they described as ‘crucial’.

However, they said it was an ‘horrendous’ process which was ‘very, very difficult’ for victims.

The women added that they would have liked to see Leonard give evidence as they had to be cross-examined at length about intimate matters during the trial.

They would also have liked Leonard to ‘admit that he had done it’.

The women said they did not expect their abuser to be jailed, but wanted him to be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register and for his name to be made public.

They said that to be believed by the jury and professionals involved in their case was ‘enough,’ and the sentence was a ‘bonus’.

One of the women who reported the abuse to a priest said that she felt ‘let down’ that he did not do anything about it.

She also admits it affected her relationship with people in similar positions of trust.

“He was quite dismissive and asked did I realise I would be breaking a family up? He said he would deal with it and to keep my mouth shut. But he didn’t do anything and it was still going on.”

The woman added: “It was the time when the charity Childline was being launched and the message was to tell an adult. I thought to myself, how many adults do I have to tell before anyone does anything?”