We would like to respond to yesterday’s sentencing of a 30 year- old man who received two life sentences for repeatedly sexually abusing and raping two young children from Athlone. We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the families who must be in turmoil and hope they receive all the support they need to move on with their lives as we understand this is both a confusing and painful time.
Is there a negative impact to anonymity?
It was very interesting to hear that there was no consideration given to the perpetrator for his cooperation and guilty plea, and rightly so. However, shouldn’t this same thinking be afforded to perpetrators of adult survivors that come before the courts, as the reality is, their victims were also child victims?
When people in media find it too disturbing to not only talk but to think about this crime, what chance have we got to ever highlight and eradicate child sexual abuse? We are aware of the discomfort around this subject, but would like to challenge media to recognise that as uncomfortable as it is, this attitude does not support victims. It is the responsibility of media to educate themselves on the subject of abuse in order to do the victims justice.
Although it is absolutely understandable that the court asked for reporting restrictions due to the families concern that their children will be identified, we need to note that this sends a very strong message that this crime must continue to be shrouded in secrecy. It also highlights that this belief is held, not only by the few but by society at large.
Again although we can understand the victims need to move on with their lives, it is quite concerning to know, we are sending mixed messages to our children. On one hand, we are asking them to tell somebody, and at the same time, we are being asked to keep it private. This only succeeds in keeping the crime underground. Consider if this was any other crime against children would the same rules apply?
The fact the children spoke up, were believed and their claims acted on, is a very good sign that we as a nation are doing something right. However, the call for anonymity around this crime, maybe saying something completely different. As survivors of this crime, our concerns are that in an effort to protect the victims from the media, requesting anonymity sends a clear message to all victims that this crime is shameful. Secrecy and silence are at the root of this crime so by not openly discussing it, we are feeding into the paradigm of concealment. We must ask ourselves, who are we really protecting?
We are not suggesting for one moment that this becomes the conversation over the garden wall, but more that the stigma attached to this crime, should rest with the perpetrator, not the victim. He should be the only one hanging his head in shame.
Joyce, June and Paula Kavanagh
Issued on 4th March 2014