Belfast Telegraph

American woman raped in Belfast in 2008 tells of joy at son's birth

Winnie Li
Winnie Li

An American woman who was raped during a visit to Northern Ireland has spoken of her joy after giving birth to her first child.

Winnie Li was attacked in Colin Glen Forest Park in Belfast in 2008 while she attended University College Cork under the Mitchell Scholarship programme, which is designed to introduce and connect future American leaders to the island of Ireland.

Aged 29 at the time, she was in Belfast for a reunion to coincide with the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

She was brutally raped twice by 15-year-old Edward Connors, who later fled to Dublin.

Connors returned to Northern Ireland voluntarily when he found out police were searching for him and was sentenced to eight years in jail.

At the time of the attack Winnie Li was a successful film producer, however afterwards she suffered from severe anxiety and depression and was unable to work for two years.

She spent five years undergoing therapy and wrote a novel inspired by her rape in 2017 in a bid to deal with the trauma.

Now, more than a decade on from her ordeal, Ms Li has announced she has given birth to her first child.

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Born on December 7, she called her son Septimus, which is Latin for 'seventh', however he will be known as Timo.

She took to social media to share photos of Timo, stating she is "delighted to have him in my life".

Speaking to the Irish News, Ms Li said she feared she would never have a child.

"I can honestly say, even though I hoped I might have the chance to become a mother, I doubted if I’d ever have the opportunity, after my assault in Belfast in 2008," she said.

"That unfortunately is the long-lasting impact that rape can have on a victim's life. It can affect our relationships, our attitudes towards dating, and ultimately our chances of having a family. So I feel very lucky that I’ve had this chance.

"A year ago, I never (would have) predicted I’d have a newborn at the start of 2020. Life can throw unexpected things our way: some good, some bad. And this is a good one for me."

Ms Li now lives in London and often speaks out on issues relating to rape victims.

She said she found the process of pregnancy, birth, and nursing "very demanding" on her body.

"As a rape survivor, this was at times triggering, but I’ve had excellent support from my friends and from medical professionals here," she added.

Ms Li said she plans on finished her second novel this year and visiting Northern Ireland.

"It's not as raw or directly personal as Dark Chapter, but it looks at women who chose to remain silent around #MeToo issues in the workplace," she explained.

"And I’ll be back in Northern Ireland later in 2020 to run a series of literary events addressing gender-based violence through writing, thanks to a grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.".

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