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‘I was disgusted… they could have helped’: Onlookers filmed Rachel McElroy in a Cork club as she was being sexually assaulted


By Megan Burns
02nd Dec 2021

Photo: Pim Myten

‘I was disgusted… they could have helped’: Onlookers filmed Rachel McElroy in a Cork club as she was being sexually assaulted

She decided to waive her right to anonymity to try and help others who had experienced a similar trauma.

A woman who was sexually assualted on a night out with friends has said that she is “disgusted” that onlookers chose to record what was happening and post it on social media, rather than help her. 

Rachel McElroy was just 18 at the time of the attack, and was on her first night out with her college friends in Cork city. 

Her attacker has received a sentence of six years in jail, which Rachel says is “a better outcome” than she expected.

She chose to be identified as the victim in the case to try and help others who have gone through similar things to come forward. She spoke about the impact the attack had on her, including dropping out of college and turning to alcohol to numb the pain for a time. 

The actions of the strangers around her only added to her trauma, on top of the assault, she said. 

“I found them very disrespectful. I was disgusted in that. They could have helped or pulled us apart. But they would rather taken a video and put it all over social media.”

She has said, however, that since deciding to speak out, she has felt very supported. 

“It is okay to speak up about stuff like this. It is never okay to hold it in. It impacts so much on your life and I feel like talking about it even to strangers helps me a lot and has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders.”

I find it very healing. Speaking out and helping other people.The amount of help and support I got from speaking out was fantastic.”

They could have helped or pulled us apart. But they would rather taken a video and put it all over social media

Ms Justice Tara Burns, the judge in the case, told Rachel that she had experienced “every young woman’s worst nightmare”.

“This was an innocent night out. A bunch of young women enjoying themselves. A small amount of alcohol was consumed and for whatever reason it had a significant effect on the young woman. CCTV from outside the nightclub shows her in an incapable state. ”

It was bouncers that intervened to help Rachel, after they followed her attacker who had carried her out of the nightclub and placed her on a footpath, but she had already been sexually assualted inside the venue while onlookers recorded. 

If you have been a victim of sexual assualt, you can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre National 24-Hour Helpline on 1 800 77 8888