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If you hear Joseph O’Callaghan’s thick Dublin accent, see his shaven headed young face, and hear his tales of early initiation into the murkey world of drug dealing, and a childhood shaped by poverty and domestic violence, it would be easy for the high minded amoung us to dismiss him as just another working class kid who could not make better decisions.
Such dismissal would be both arrogant and ignorant, for when one listens to the entirety of The Witness: In His Own Words, the award winning Irish podcast series, only the hardest of hearts could not feel for young Joseph, who thought that he was taking a job with a milkman, Brian Kenny, to bring some extra cash home to his Mum. The Milkman, is delivering more than just milk, and soon grooms Joseph so he becomes thoroughly embroiled in his drug gang.
Young Joseph is at first pleased with the money and the status, but it is not long before things take a darker turn with Kenny exerting controll through a combination of bullying and flattery, which ultimately culminates in regular rapes, and ends in Jospeh becoming an accessory to murder.
While the story of a young boy turned gangster, turned states witness is not a new one, there are two things that makes O’Callaghans story unique. Firstly his young age, he was only nineteen when he entered the witness protection programme, barely out of a childhood which was warped by Kenny’s hellish controll. Secondly that he admits to being raped by another man.
The rape of men by other men is estimated to be under reported by some to the extend of 96%. It is prevelent in the military, both for those captured in war by an enemy and by supposed commrades during peace time, it is part of prison life (although mainly joked about by those who’d never have to experience such a terrifying ordeal), it is part of higher education, and there is absolutely nothing to show that it would not be part and parcel of criminal life as well – rape mainly being a crime of controll, rather than desire.
The great silence around male victims of sexual assault makes Jospeh’s, authentic and factual recountings of what he suffered at the hands of Kenny even more extrodinary. It is easy to see why with Kenny agitating for release, O’Callaghan felt it was right to let these most personal of details into the public sphere. One gets the feeling that Joseph, who has not been able to build a life, set adrift in the witness protection program with little support and help, unable to build authentic relationships, is also finding this honesty is the only option availible for healing. One can’t help but leave this podcast wishing that Jospeh, who despite his great bravery and courage was pretty much abandoned, can heal, and may be able to find peace, and live a life much, much more ordinary.
If anything in this post has effected you please contact an organisation like Survivors UK.