In an emotional and extraordinary interview, Sophia Murphy, who waived her right to anonymity to share her story, spoke on Friday's Late Late's Show to urge victims of abuse to come forward
Sophia Murphy is a woman of extraordinary strength and courage.
In July 2018, a 61-year-old former member of the Irish Defence Forces was sentenced to 18 years in prison for regularly sexually assaulting his daughter. John Murphy pleaded guilty to the sexual assault and rape of his eldest daughter Sophia from the ages of 3 to 15.
Sophia bravely decided to waive her anonymity to help others who might be too afraid to come forward and report their abusers.
She explained that the abuse she suffered was "relentless" and that her father could abuse her up to "10 times a day."
She recalled a number of harrowing incidences, including an early memory when she was only a toddler of being abused on a bus while the driver stopped outside for a cigarette. "There were lads outside the bus and I was so afraid because I knew what was coming and I was so afraid that they would see dad doing what he was doing."
"I just thought it was normal. Three-and-a-half is my first memory but I know it's been going on longer because I've seen paperwork to prove it... That's my dad, I don't know any different. I'd get frustrated at myself thinking 'why couldn't I stop him?'"
She revealed that she often inflicted severe injuries on herself as an outlet for her emotional pain and described the conflicting feelings she felt towards her father. "I wouldn't have told anyone at that point what he was doing because I didn't want to lose my dad, I loved him. He made me feel safe as well as doing that, in a weird way."
"As I child I dissociated myself from it a lot... I put all the anger back into myself," she said, saying that she would break her wrist to get some relief. "I was confused, I didn't know what pain was. I blocked it out."
She reported her father at aged 15 and even then said she used to pray to God, not to take her father away.
"Don't ever feel ashamed"
— The Late Late Show (@RTELateLateShow) September 27, 2019
Displaying immense courage and eloquence, she urged any victims to reach out and seek help "For anyone that's a victim of any form of abuse please don't ever feel ashamed," she said.
"You have done nothing wrong. They know exactly how to break you down. They know exactly what they're doing.
"For anyone who touches a child. You are sick. Just please, please think twice before you destroy a child's life. It has destroyed our family.
"Please ring, please seek the help there is," she said. "I know people say there is a long waiting list but even please ring the helplines, please talk to someone."
'Nothing is ever going to hurt you as much as your abuser' - Sophia Murphy pic.twitter.com/GV2Lggv87j
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) July 20, 2018
But despite testifying against him, Sophia holds no bitterness or resentment towards her father.
"The social worker told me that my sisters could possibly be taken into care and that dad was going to be investigated, and I just didn't want them to be taken into care. And even though I wished I had different parents, I still didn't want my life without him. I don't know why. I loved him. I still do.
"I felt sorry for him [when testifying] because he looked scared. I wanted to go and hug him."
He was given 18 years, a sentence Sophia says is much too short. "When the sentence was announced, that's when I realised how bad my abuse really was. The sentence now, I know, is nothing for the damage he has caused."
She explained that through counselling, she has now understood the gravity of what her father has done.
"Counselling has saved me so much. I've come a long, long way."
Her powerful words struck a chord with so many viewers.
Sophia Murphy is one of the bravest people I’ve ever met...
By giving up her anonymity,telling her story I hope some child finds the strength to make a call for help.
Let’s not fool ourselves, there are children in Ireland tonight going through what Sophia suffered #LateLateShow
— Jim Sheridan (@Jim_Sheridan) September 27, 2019
— Davie Kenny (@timbcaycgi) September 27, 2019
Sophia is remarkable, and her story is one of triumph and courage over trauma and adversity.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article you can contact the Rape Crisis Centre on their 24 Hour Helpline on 1800 778888 or visit www.rapecrisishelp.ie