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Woman in ‘place of darkness’ after attack by soldier


A woman who was beaten unconscious by a serving soldier said the psychological scars from the ordeal have been much harder to overcome and left her in a “place of darkness”.

Natasha O’Brien said that she has suffered PTSD and attended “multiple therapists” since the attack.

The Defence Forces has begun internal proceedings in relation to Cathal Crotty, who pleaded guilty to beating Ms O’Brien in a random street attack in Limerick in May 2022, for which he received a fully suspended sentence.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme, Ms O’Brien described feeling a sense of “constant dread and isolation”, and said she “spiralled into self-destructive behaviours,” losing all interest in motivation for life and basic tasks at work became “incredibly difficult”.

She said that she could not cope with reality and could barely avoid the flashbacks to what had happened and did anything she could to “disassociate completely”.

“Obviously having to walk into that courthouse brought it all back up again of course … it comes and goes, I think it’s something that will always stay with you,” she said.

Crotty of Parkroe Heights, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, had initially tried to blame Ms O’Brien, by wrongly telling gardaí who arrested him that she had instigated the attack on O’Connell Street in Limerick on 29 May 2022.

However, after Crotty was shown CCTV footage of him setting upon her without provocation he admitted his guilt, Limerick Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Hours afterwards, he boasted about the attack to friends on Snapchat.

Cathal Crotty received a fully suspended sentence

Ms O’Brien said she was on her way home from work with her friend walking to get a taxi together when they noticed a “group of males” in front of them, shouting “homophobic slurs” at a young “lone male” across the street.

She said they “seemed very aggressive” and as she and her friend were “filtering through them” they “politely and nonchalantly” said “ah lads c’mon now don’t be calling anyone a, you know…”

“It was just met with extreme aggression, and before I knew it I was getting held by the head of hair, held like a punching bag, just being punched repeatedly into the face,” she said.

Ms O’Brien said she “didn’t feel human”. She hit her head on the ground and her friend was “screaming for help”.

Watch: Natasha O’Brien reacts outside of court to the sentence imposed on Cathal Crotty

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“A lovely male ran down to rescue, pulled him off me while I was unconscious because he wasn’t stopping,” Ms O’Brien said.

She said that she pleaded with Crotty to stop attacking her.

“I was on the ground, I remember saying please stop … as I was losing consciousness, I just remember thinking he’s not stopping, he’s going to kill me.”

She said she feared for her life and that had it not been for the passerby who intervened “I may not be here today speaking about this”.

Ms O’Brien told the programme that her issue is not what happened to her or that she has been “overlooked” by the justice system, but the fact that “this is far more prevalent” and her horror and disappointment at the outcome as she walked out of court.

She described the physical injuries she suffered in the assault as “devastating”.

“I had a severe concussion, broken nose, severe swelling and bruising on both arms, shoulders, head, right hip, left eye, my swollen jaw.

“I spent the following weeks in and out of hospitals and doctor appointments and then due to serious persistent concussion, I was actually deemed high risk for a brain bleed and got a bit of a scare about a month later.”

This led, she said, to a CT scan on her head and a “battery of tests,” the concussion lasted three months and she suffered “blackouts”.

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‘A stand against violence’

Ms O’Brien said she had not anticipated how difficult going to court was going to be.

She said she did not know whether the case would even reach court let alone there being a sentencing, when she was informed last week of a sentencing date.

She was “almost in shock… that something was actually happening … and was really looking forward to it.”

However, the victim impact statement changed all that, bringing it all up and making her “relive it,” but she knew the judge needed to hear the impact the experience had on her.

She said she “felt the need to take a stand against violence,” but that it was not easy.

Ms O’Brien said that she could not get out of the car for 15 minutes before having to enter the court on Wednesday because she was “frozen” and could not believe how much she felt like “that punch bag all over again”.

She said she “didn’t have words and couldn’t look” at her attacker, it was “terrifying”.

Ms O’Brien said that at the end of her victim impact statement, she looked up at the judge and told him that she considered herself “incredibly fortunate to be here today, to have my voice heard and that I am lucky to be alive”.

She told the judge that she believes the passerby who intervened to rescue her from the attack “saved my life”.

“I told the judge I am here to seek justice and not just for myself, but to protect others from the violence and malice that I experienced.

“From that statement alone, I don’t feel that I received any justice and I don’t feel that the citizens of Ireland have received justice, I think it’s really, really let down victims,” she said.



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