© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. In recent years, Ireland has been rocked by revelations of historical child sexual abuse. This has led to a variety of state responses but one question remains particularly difficult to answer: why did the sexual abuse of children go unrecognized as a societal problem for so long? This article seeks answers by scrutinizing cases in which defendants sought to have their trial prohibited because of the delayed reporting. It explores the legal test used in the period 1999–2006, which focussed on the abuser’s ‘dominion’ over the victim. The use of the notion of dominion elicited valuable information about the reasons for the delay and how children were silenced. Uncovering these stories is essential to understanding the dynamics of child sexual abuse. However, a critical reading of the delay cases that draws on feminist critiques of battered woman’s syndrome and rape trauma syndrome reveals law’s power to impose hegemonic discourses onto victims and to produce new histories. Under the dominion paradigm, the courts distorted victims’ accounts of their experiences and sidelined stories that pointed towards a culture of indifference to abuse. Thus, law is shown to occupy a paradoxical position in relation to Ireland’s history of child sexual abuse.