Ailbhe Griffith, who endured a harrowing sexual assault at the age of 21, moved The Late Late Show audience to tears and received a standing ovation.
In the summer of 2005, Ailbhe Griffith was just like her peers. After graduating college and waiting to begin her Masters in Law, she undertook bar and restaurant work to save money for an upcoming trip to California.
Griffith explained that she would routinely take the bus home from her late night shifts, sometimes with her sister and sometimes alone. Her home was only a four minute walk from the bus stop, and she figured she was confident in her abilities to “handle most situations”.
On the fateful night of her attack, she was on the bus alone when she became eerily aware that somebody was sitting close to her. Alas, it was an experience on public transport that she has endured before - so she didn’t think much of it.
“On this particular night, I got off the bus and I had a sense that somebody had gotten off the bus after me. I began to walk down the street and I noticed somebody was walking parallel to me. My immediate, gut instinct was that alarm bells were ringing, at the same time another part of me was rationalising.
With stoic bravely, Griffith told host Ryan Tubridy of the moment where her whole life would irrevocably change.
“I quickly turned around and I just saw him staring straight at me. Within those split seconds, I knew that something awful was just about to happen.”
“He grabbed me by the throat, and quite literally dragged me by the throat backwards into a bush, at that point he removed my clothes and then hit me, strangled me, bit me, and sexually assaulted me over the course of 40, 50 minutes,” she recalled.
Griffith said that the entire time, she feared for her life. As she was dragged to another place, she and her attacked were intercepted by two males walking by. She maintained that she will be “forever grateful to them for intervening”.
As her attacker ran off, the two men chased him and held him down as she fled towards her own home.
Griffith credits the “amazing” Gardai for their treatment of her. As her assailant was captured at the scene, she is in the so-called lucky category in that there was a “swift processing” with no trial as the man had pleaded guilty.
“I would say, that part really helped me - there was certain validation, an official validation in that... yes, this person has wronged you. The Criminal Justice System is really all about the law that this person broke and punishing this person for breaking the law."
Imagine the bravery it takes to meet a man who brutalised you.— Pilib Ó Nualláin (@philipnolan1) September 14, 2018
Imagine the strength needed to forge a life without being hostage to that savagery.
Imagine that level of compassion.
I’m in awe of Ailbhe Griffith. #LateLate #LateLateShow
Griffith told of her post traumatic stress disorder and onslaught of eating disorders that came after the incident.
“I remember speaking to one of the detectives, he mentioned this person’s name. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe that he had a name - it had never crossed my mind that he was a human.”
“I couldn’t conceive that this monster could also be a human.. It was pretty mind-boggling,” she added.
“Time went on, life went on, I functioned pretty well. If you’re suffering and you don’t deal with it, it doesn’t go away it’s just maybe deeper in your subconscious. I felt bouts of anger, somethings would trigger it...generate feelings of disempowerment, anger. As these things happened I would begin to imagine confronting him, something in a murderous rage kind of way, and sometimes in a questioning way: ‘Explain, why did you do it?’”
Griffith was directed to Dr. Marie Keenan, who specialises in therapeutic and restorative justice responses to crime and sexual trauma. To overcome years of trauma, Griffith made the decision to meet face-to-face with her attacker.
“What I wanted was to see him as a human, in order to let go of all this anger that I felt. I felt I couldn’t forgive him unless I met the human. That’s the only way you can generate any kind of compassion, that was also critical for me... and to get answers that I’d needed for years.”
From the audience, Dr. Keenan explained that this system of restorative justice has been in the country since 2009, and is recently being used more for people in situations like Griffith’s.
“The outcome for people in situations like Ailbhe’s are really, really good,” she said. “The most important thing that we know is that it reduces post traumatic stress, and it reduces fear. By the person in Ailbhe’s situation facing the fear and facing who has done it to them. That fear dissipates as they have eyeballed the person right down the table.”
“It has been absolutely and utterly transformative for me,” Griffith agreed, maintaining that she is truly happy once more.
Griffith will play herself in the upcoming film, “The Meeting”. The film reenacts the encounter using actual transcripts from her interaction with her assailant.
More information about “The Meeting” can be found here.
Last night’s episode of The Late Late Show can be found here.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre operates a national 24-hour helpline which can be contacted at 1800 77 88 88.
Absolutely in awe of Ailbhe Griffith's bravery on the #LateLateShow tonight. The moment when the audience gave her a standing ovation will stay with me forever. Her interview should be played in every secondary school in Ireland.— Amy Devereux (@AmyDevereux) September 14, 2018
A lady on the #LateLateShow just described her abusers behaviour.. “there was no onus on him to acknowledge my humanity”.... so so profound. Well done Ailbhe Griffith, will definitely be going to see #TheMeeting— EmmaLou (@emmalouuharte) September 14, 2018
In awe of Ailbhe Griffith. What an incredibly brave woman & she showed such strength of character. Impressive too that she found the ability within herself to be happy again. #LateLate— Gabrielle Cummins (@GabmCummins) September 14, 2018
Well done to Ailbhe Griffith on the Late Late Show tonight, discussing restorative justice in cases of sexual crime. An extremely brave and empowering story! The movie of her story ‘The Meeting’ will be released in cinemas on the 28th of September #TheLateLateShow #TheMeeting— Martin Mulrennan (@MMul1) September 14, 2018