Sexual Abuse is accepted across the world as being the most under-reported crime and here in Ireland we are no different. With our current population and our seriously outdated statistics, we can estimate that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their past. That means there are at least 900 thousand citizens currently living with the impacts of abuse.
Now take into account that the abusers are out there too. Based on these figures we also must realise that for every victim there is an abuser. We would all like to think that we would recognise a child abuser if we saw one. That we can pick them out of the crowd based on their creepy look or their odd behaviour. But those stereotypes are simply that, stereotypes. The fact is, child abusers are not monsters, they don’t walk around with signs saying ‘abuser’. They are able to include themselves in our lives and our children’s lives because we trust them.
An abuser can have many victims but let’s take a conservative figure of an abuser abusing 2 victims, that means there are 4.5 hundred thousand sexual predators living amongst us.
As horrific as these statistics are, we reckon that at best, half of our population are directly impacted by abuse and all of our population, suffer the secondary impacts of abuse victims and perpetrators living within our communities.
Unlocking the Memories
As victims of child sexual abuse, we understand just how difficult it is for victims to open the doors they hid their memories of abuse behind. However, without unlocking your memories of abuse, those memories will be the fuel that drives you forward or keeps you stuck. Though those memories or emotions can be on an unconscious level, they are most likely the force behind every decision, relationship and dream you have for yourself and those around you. Until you are able to open those doors and look into the dark spaces you will continue to live your life as a victim, which not only affects you but all those around you.
Tell me Why?
Offenders can only continue with their behaviour if they remain in the dark about the impact of their actions on their victims. As a victim myself, I wanted to know why my father did what he did, and I desperately wanted him to understand the damage he did to me and be truly sorry. It wouldn’t have taken away the pain of what was done but, if I had any chance of understanding the ‘why me?’ element of the abuse, it might have helped me heal a little and find forgiveness for myself sooner.
A Reason to Look?
Why would an abuser look? We need to give them a reason to explore the why and how they do what they do. Seeing into their dark places will provide them with the answers to the questions they hide from themselves.
How we view rapist, sex offenders and paedophiles as less than human, monster’s or creatures that deserve neither compassion nor understanding serves no one and certainly is not helping to stop their offending. They, like victims need answers if we are ever to stop abuse. Simply placing them behind bars is not the answer. Offenders absolutely need to be punished and suffer the consequences for their actions and the lives they have destroyed. Their punishment will allow the victims to feel vindicated, heard and most importantly believed.
Make it Stop
Surly we all want abuse to stop, for suffering from this act to stop. We have no choice but to find solutions to stop abuse, to show those who commit these atrocities that they need to stop. You will never change anything if you do not understand why you do it and what impact you are having on someone’s life.
If that is to happen we have to stop seeing sex offenders as separate to us, but rather people within our communities that are damaged and need repairing. Probably more importantly we need to have support and help available throughout the country to prevent abusers ever getting to the point of action. There has to be a better way as clearly what we are currently doing is not working.
Today 6th June 2018 the government announced that it is considering new measures, including electronic tagging, to tighten restrictions on sex offenders after they are released from prison. The tag would be dependent on the risks that sex offenders pose on the community. The released sex offenders will also be required to be finger printed, photographed and register with gardaí within 3 days of their release from jail and provide any change of address.
A New Approach
We must stop with our reactive response and begin by treating the cause and not simply the symptoms. We don’t even do that adequately enough, the scant service provision and cost of attending therapy along with long waiting lists further inflict pain and suffering on the victims of these crimes.
We must begin by providing balanced solutions that help all those impacted, victims and perpetrators alike. We must stretch ourselves and see past the behaviour that destroys lives and look at the person behind them. Only viewing sexual abuse from one angle will not change the outcomes. The ones committing these crimes are the only ones that can provide the answers that we need. We need to provide treatments that will prevent these heinous crimes occurring in the first place.
“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done,
you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”
Isn’t it time we fixed all our broken people.
Paula Kavanagh- 6th June 2018