When Ciara Mangan (28) started work at a fast-food restaurant around 2011, she was 16. She received training in “carrying heavy boxes correctly” but none relating to “bullying or sexual harassment”.
When she was aged 18, she was raped by a colleague at a party attended by other colleagues. Rather than receiving support and assistance at work, she received taunts and harassment, that wore her down “until I was just rubble”.
Speaking after her rapist, Shane Noonan (28) was given an eight-year sentence with the final year suspended this week, Ms Mangan says organisations with predominantly young workforces had a “huge responsibility” ensuring their safety.
Having waived her right to anonymity she told the Central Criminal Court, Noonan (28), of Castlehill Park, Turlough Road, Castlebar in Co Mayo, had made a “beeline” for her at the party in May 2013 and had guided her into an upstairs bathroom where he raped her.
“I was easy prey, extremely vulnerable and defenceless. My control was taken from me. I stood no chance,” she told the court.
She told The Irish Times on Friday how she had been handed an open can of cider upon arriving at the party, which she had attended reluctantly. The drink was “spiked,” she says.
“When I was half way through my second one I was literally falling asleep on my feet,” she says.
She was raped as she drifted in and out of consciousness. The following day she went to work as normal.
“I knew I was raped, that something really bad had happened and who did it. But I was not really mature enough to say: ‘I have to go the sexual assault unit now.’ I had a shower. I didn’t go to the guards. I did all the opposite of that and just went to work the next morning. I just got on with it,” she says.
“Everybody in work knew I was raped and it was the joke of the day. Then the tormenting started, and for the next 10 months.”
It began, she says, when she “brushed up against Shane” in a narrow section of the kitchen.
“A colleague commented: ‘Jeez, be careful of Ciara, Shane. You already raped her. You wouldn’t want to do it again,’” Mangan recalled.
“That’s how it started. You can’t put it into words [how one reacts] because anyone normal would expect that something like rape would be dealt with, with disgust and by being appalled. But it was the complete opposite so your brain doesn’t really know what to do or how to process it.
“Everyone was making a joke of it, so I was questioning why is this affecting me so badly – psychologically, with depression and trauma.”
She tried to seek support from one colleague who, she says, told her to: “Shut the f**k up and be glad he didn’t get you pregnant’.”
It continued for 10 months until her younger sister was due to start work there. That’s when she told her mother what had happened.
The youth of her colleagues does not excuse their treatment of her.
“If it was the other way around I would not have behaved like that. I would have at least gone home and told my parents that a girl in work was raped and they would have gone to the guards. So there is no excuse for people being too young – wrong is wrong,” she says.
She does, however, believe management failed her for failing to ensure a workplace that was safe, particularly given the youth of the majority of employees.
“I was 18 when I was raped but I was employed there when I was 16, 17. My parents thought I was going into a safe place to work, and it was absolutely the opposite,” she says.
“When I was there, I got training on carrying heavy boxes correctly but never got any training on bullying or sexual harassment. I think organisations need to be very careful about who they are employing as managers,” she says, pointing to the need to ensure they manage young people safely.
“The responsibility is so huge especially for young people with their part-time jobs. They need to be protected. Parents should feel their children are safe, no more than when they send their children to a childcare [facility]. You put them into trust of people in responsible roles.”
Welcoming the new relationships and sex education programme in schools, which will include modules on consent and the influence of pornography, being introduced at Junior Cycle level from September, Mangan says change “needs to go further than that”.
It should be mandatory that employees, especially young ones, receive training on recognising sexual violence, bullying and harassment in their workplace, and on how to respond.
“We need to stand up for each other. We need to voice it out loud when something is just not right. Even if you are afraid to mention it to an older person within your organisation, say it to your parents,” she says.
“In my case some of the people who were behaving like they did were well out of school. It is another area that needs to be tackled – education, awareness at work, one person speaking up and shutting it down and saying, ‘No, that’s not on’. Stop following the crowd.”
Just one person speaking out against the chorus of taunts and ‘rape songs’ would have “saved her” from 10 months of being “tortured,” she says.
“The taunting wore me down until I was just rubble, I ended up being just a broken person. I had no help for those 10 months to process the rape,” she says.
“But more than that, I was being abused because of the rape as well. How much can one person take, especially one still a teenager?”
If you have been affected by any issues in this article, please contact the national 24-hour Rape Crisis freephone at 1800 77 8888 or the national 24-hour Women’s Aid freephone at 1800 34 1900