At the age of 21, Kelly Kemmy decided it was finally time to stand up to her abusive foster father.
or seven years, from 11 until reaching adulthood at 18, the man she could have trusted the most in the world instead abused his position of power in the worst possible way.
He raped his foster daughter around 1,000 times in seven years. He would attack her up to four times a week on late-night visits in her bedroom, where she would be paralyzed with fear.
Stephen Murray also blackmailed her into keeping his attacks a secret, threatening to “break up” the family, who lived in Blessington, Co. Wicklow.
On many occasions, Kelly asked him to stop the abuse at an age when she didn’t even have the words to articulate what was happening to her. All she knew was that it was wrong.
“The abuse, it was just horrific. I don’t know how I got through all these years. I just pushed it to the background and pretended it wasn’t happening. It was blurry, I pretended it wasn’t happening to me,” she said Sunday independent.
“He preferred me over my younger siblings, that’s how he behaved. He gave us the best in life, outwardly, in terms of material things. We lacked nothing. But you can’t buy love.”
The 56-year-old was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday for the ongoing rape and sexual assault of his eldest foster child. In remission, he will be out of prison in just over nine years.
Murray stopped raping his foster daughter when she was 18 after beginning a relationship with a friend. But when the couple split when she was 21, her foster dad texted her, saying, “Can we go again?”.
The text Murray sent while drunk while they were both inside chilled Kelly’s blood. It also gave her a piece of evidence to present to Gardaí.
“When I got the text, I was like, ‘I’ve got it.’ If I hadn’t gotten that text, I’m not sure I would have ever reached out.
“The abuse had stopped three years ago. But getting that text was the turning point for me. Three years had passed, I thought it was over. But he tried to start it again.
“But I was older. I decided that I would go to the Gardaí. But first I talked to my younger brother and sister. They were shocked and felt guilty because they didn’t know. I was so relieved to find out they didn’t like it either.
“I’m so happy he never touched her, but at the same time I was like, ‘Why just me?’ I was the quiet one, maybe he thought I’d never say anything.”
Kelly was just five years old when Murray and his wife, who believe they were unaware of the sexual abuse, took her and her younger siblings into foster care. He was her father figure.
He was the first man to ever tell Kelly he loves her, she explained, before using her vulnerable position as a child in his care to engage in ongoing sexual assault.
The decision to report her foster father was not easy for her, she explains. But Kelly did so in July 2019, went to Naas Garda Station and made a statement to Garda detective Laura Kavanagh.
She still felt like a child who couldn’t be believed. The young woman also still carried guilt and shame about the abuse.
“It was a very difficult decision to go to the Gardaí. It was discouraging. I had to relive everything. It took so many years I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”
But Gardaí believed her. An immediate investigation was launched and Kelly and her younger brother and sister were removed from Murray’s home that evening.
“I didn’t want to disrupt the lives of my younger brother and sister, which is what he had always threatened me with – that if I said it would divide the family. I felt a real sense of protection towards my brother and sister.”
Because she had kept quiet about the abuse as a child for a long time, the final confrontation with the investigators led to an outburst of suppressed feelings.
“When I was 11, I didn’t even know what was happening to me. I only remember shock, confusion and not knowing what was going on. I was so scared. But I thought it was normal.
“Then I got a little bit older and we started doing sex ed classes at school and I realized that’s not normal. But I still didn’t know what to do about it. So I just hid it and didn’t tell anyone.”
On Friday, after her foster father was jailed, Kelly said she was “delighted” with the jail sentence. “Right now I just feel overwhelmed. I don’t think I’ve fully processed today. But I feel relief and a load lifted from my shoulders. I can sleep now knowing he is locked up.”
Kelly gave birth to a baby girl three months ago and lives happily with her partner. She has a degree in Social Nursing and is determined to move on with her life. She chose to give up her right to anonymity to send a message to others who have been abused that they have nothing to be ashamed of.
“I took back the power he had over me. Of course I’m angry with him. But the most important thing for me is that it doesn’t define me.
“I hope I can inspire other people who have been through something similar to come forward. No one who has been abused should feel ashamed or guilty. That gave me freedom. In a way, what he did to me made me stronger.
“The only person who feels shame or guilt should be him.”
It’s been less than three years since Kelly first reported her foster father to gardaí, but “it’s been a lifetime, it feels like about 10 years ago.” The young mother is full of praise for the way her case was handled by lead investigators Det Kavanagh and Det Sgt Dermot Tracey.
She hasn’t had any contact with Murray since she went to Gardaí. After being arrested, interrogated and charged, he eventually pleaded guilty, meaning the 24-year-old did not have to go through a difficult trial, testify or be cross-examined.
She has only seen her abuser in court a few times since reporting him to the Gardaí.
If she wanted to speak to Murray, would she have anything to say?
“No, I do not think so. Maybe I would tell him he didn’t destroy me. This is just the beginning for me. It feels like the beginning of my life. I don’t let that define me.”
If you are affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact the Rape Crisis Center on toll free 1800.77.88.88
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ive-taken-back-the-power-he-had-over-me-raped-repeatedly-by-her-foster-father-kelly-kemmy-found-the-courage-to-report-him-41650772.html “I took back the power he had over me” Kelly Kemmy was repeatedly raped by her foster father and found the courage to report him