There is hardly a day goes by without a new or historic case of child sexual abuse hitting the headlines along with considerable coverage of the #timesup and #metoo campaigns, you would probably think that the answer to that question above is yes.
The Right to Speak Up
This year marks the centenary of those brave women who fought and finally won the right for women to vote. Oprah Winfrey’s powerful acceptance speech for the Cecil B. Demille award at the Golden Globes, 2018 was inspirational as she announced that the ‘Time was up’ for abusers with particular reference to powerful and brutal abusive men. She went on to commend all of the brave women who came forth and told their story. Mentioning celebrities speaking out about their abuse has ignited and bolstered women everywhere to finally come forward and speak out. All of this would appear to suggest that 2018 will be a year when women finally take control of their lives and careers.
Is it a Cause for Celebration?
This all sounds very positive and encouraging. However, just because women are speaking out and finally telling their stories of abuse does not necessarily make it a cause for celebration.
As survivors of sexual abuse, we understand the level of courage it takes to simply type the words ‘Me Too’ or join campaigns like #timesup. Our concern is what happens when they do? For many women their secret has been hidden or buried for many years and now they can’t go back.
Do we have the resources to deal with the number of victims emerging through these campaigns? What happens to them after they speak out? Where do they go with their pain, confusion and hurt?
No Political Interest
There is no evidence of our politicians showing any great concern or interest in this issue. Once again, we appear to be waiting for men in positions of power to do the right thing. What is holding them back? How can they not see the value in putting in place the necessary resources? What has to happen in order to acknowledge that this issue will not go away and requires men to become part of the solution and not the problem.
Something has to give, and things will only get worse if the current stance of turning a blind eye to the underfunded, overburdened minimal services that currently struggle to meet the demands placed upon them. Services like the Rape Crisis Centre, One in Four and The CARI Foundation, currently have long waiting lists and their CEO, s have to spend an inordinate amount of their precious time fundraising just to stay open. It would appear that in Ireland the stance has been taken that it isn’t really anything to do with us and that it is an American celebrity issue.
Although we didn’t have the back up of such campaigns when we were prosecuting our father, we do know the turmoil in our lives when we spoke up and tried to deal with the sheer devastation that came with it. The memories came flooding back quicker than we could process and for most of the time it felt like we had been hit by a truck.
We who encourage victims to speak out must share the responsibility to provide these brave women with the answers, support and help they so badly need. We also must be mindful not to place undue pressure on women who may not yet be ready to speak out. Waiving anonymity may be a step too far for some and we must honour everyone’s process. Sexual abuse may be in the media much more than ever, but headlines die as quick as they arise. Unless there is a celebrity involved the story doesn’t even last 24 hours.
If a victim is lucky enough to receive justice through the courts, what then? The offender may be placed in prison for a few years, which also seems to depend on the mood of the judge on the day. The sheer lack of understanding around the impacts of this crime not only on the victim but their families, communities and society are demonstrated all too frequently through grossly inappropriate sentencing.
There remains no pressure on the judicial system to educate themselves on the impacts on its victims and although we can appreciate that all cases are not the same, are we to simply look on as injustice continues through the courts sentencing procedures. Have we no recourse? Have we no rights? It would appear that judges are accountable to no one. Why are they not listening to the people they are there to serve?
We are aware there are many treatment programs available to perpetrators, but none appear to be mandatory. How can that work? How can things ever be different or produce better outcomes for the public.
These are just some of the real concerns we have around the current outpouring of pain in the world. Particularly on this little isle of ours. We are sure we are not alone when we urge everyone to get on board and do whatever you can do to ensure that women’s pain does not become sound bites and that it does in fact become the year of the woman. It is time for change……
The Kavanagh Sisters – 23rd April 2018