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Author: Joyce Kavanagh

Young Offenders – What are we to do?

In the Irish Examiner 17th February 2018, Seán Mc Cárthaigh reported that Juveniles committed 45% of sex offences in 2016 and that Juvenile offenders were responsible for almost half of all sexual offences recorded by Gardaí in 2016.

I have to say that when I first heard the statistics on young offenders I was in total shock and disbelief.  Having come from a background of Childhood Sexual Abuse I simply found it impossible to absorb or even consider.  I really didn’t know how to come to terms with this information.  I was baffled to think that young people could be part of what I previously considered the adult arena of crimes of a sexual nature, and yet here we are.  Things are worse that anyone could have imagined.  How did we get here? And what can we do about it?

It was also reported that sexual offences are one of the few crime categories where offending rates by young people are on the rise with an increase of 39% from those figures reported in 2015.

Does no one find it frightening that this report is not on the front page of every newspaper or shown on every news station. Is it because we don’t care?  Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to think about it, or perhaps it is because we do not have any idea what to do with these children.

It is heart breaking to think of a child being sexually abused and the only thing worse than that is discovering it was by another child.  Imagine for one moment getting the news your child is an abuser……. where can you go? ……. who can you tell?… who would help you or your child?  What hopes have you now for your child’s future?


The vast majority of young people who sexually abuse are male. There are said to be two ‘peak’ ages for male sexual offenders to abuse. One being around 14 years and the second being in the mid-to-late 30’s.  Recent Australian figures suggest that 23% of young people who are in treatment for their sexually abusive behaviours are aged 10-12 years and 70% are 15 years or younger.

What should terrify us is that without intervention it is likely these teenagers will adapt to a life of paedophilia by the time they reach adulthood, as most paedophiles begin to act on their sexual desires before they are 18.  However, there is a strong possibility that their lives could be turned around with the proper interventions, saving many children from having the life we had.


There is a possibility that these children who committed rape were victims of abuse themselves. I have heard of so many cases where a sexual predator claims they were abused themselves. To be honest, my first thoughts are usually ‘so what’, so was I and I didn’t sexually abuse anyone.  This must not and cannot be seen as an excuse to carry out the behaviours that will leave its victims with lifelong impacts.

However, there are many factors that can lead to inappropriate sexual behaviour and they all must be investigated and considered.  Making sure that the victims in these cases are supported is our priority. We must then explore how to also help the perpetrators, or we will never stop child abuse.


Although this is the year of the woman, we believe it is also time to consider how men process their emotions and their experience of sexual abuse.  It is not news women process differently than men and this begins at a very young age.  It is also far more common to hear of men acting out their pain in a more physical way.

It is our belief that prisons are filled with men who have committed crimes as a direct result of their experience of childhood abuse.  We need to help victims of abuse regardless of their gender.

I am not trying to excuse nor condone their behaviour in any way. But if it is not addressed I have no doubt we will be dealing with the issue of juvenile sexual abuse for generations to come.


We have a duty to discover where these young offenders learned that sexual assault is okay. We need to understand how and what treatment they need to interrupt their behaviours before it’s too late. Simply locking them up is not stopping the problem just ensuring these children become more damaged and furthermore go on to damage others.

I feel we have a responsibility to look past the behaviour and deeper into the why our young children are acting out. It is time to get serious about changing things around sexual crimes. To do this we need to open up to the possibility that a lot of those that abuse children can be helped. We have to be willing to discover what works and encourage our young children to come forward and seek help prior to acting on their urges.  I firmly believe a lot of these young people can be reached before it is too late. It is our responsibility to do all we can before we lose more children to the impacts of abuse.  When abuse occurs, there are no winners.

Are our families and communities so damaged that we cannot hear the cries for help from our children? Children need nurturing and with the growing pressure on parents to both work to make ends meet and our lack of affordable childcare, more and more children become vulnerable to negative influences.

The crime of children abusing other children is only a symptom, not the cause.  It represents a much broader problem. These children who abuse are growing in numbers and will not go away on their own.  We must consider what needs they have that are not being met and address them, sooner rather than later.


Joyce 19th February 2018

To Catch a Paedophile

I have watched many videos posted on Facebook where a trap is set for a sexual predator.  I am really torn as to how I feel about this and wonder if others feel the same.  Although as a victim of abuse for most of my childhood, I have more reasons than most to want these people caught and stopped in their tracks. I still feel uncomfortable with the way it is being done.

I do not doubt the intentions of the group setting the traps.  They are going above and beyond to protect children, but their methods are something I still struggle with.

What does it say about our justice system when ordinary parents can pin these predators down with a bit of effort and very little resources and, yet the Gardaí are unable to do the same.

As far as I am concerned it highlights the complete lack of will of the government to give sexual crimes the attention they deserve and tackle this issue which is widespread.

Appropriate Platform

I do agree that these incidents should be logged, videoed and handed over to police. I do not however, feel social media is an appropriate forum for this material.  To me it screams vigilantism and incites violence, it also doesn’t consider the impact this action has on the predator’s innocent family members.

In one of these videos the trapped predator was a 19-year-old boy and to be honest this broke my heart.  Although I don’t condone his behaviour, surely there must be a better way to deal with this.  The boy looked really troubled which although I know would go hand in hand with being caught, I read it deeper.  He looked genuinely confused.

Being caught on social media is not an intervention it is a trap. If young predators are not treated correctly a lot more victims will appear before us in the future. Teenagers are already at a difficult stage in their development, if you add to that, confusion over their sexual identity they are most likely already psychologically on overload.   Because the entrapment being posted on social media this child has had all his prospects for any kind of future removed. He will be ridiculed possibly beaten or worse still, killed.  What are we creating? What is the benefit to society of destroying a child instead of reaching out and offering him some help.  It may very well be that we are creating bigger problems which will impact our society well into the future.

Young Offenders

The reality is that for several years there has been a spurt in the amount of young people responsible for sexual abuse.  This is frightening and what does it tell us about our systems of response to sexual abuse in this country.

Could it be that these young people are victims acting out? Or could they be continuing learned behaviour?  It is not right that we just wipe our hands of them? I know if it was my son I would go to the end of the earth to help him understand and change his behaviour.  Ignoring this issue will ensure that we will have to continue to deal with sexual abuse for generations. It is a fact that many adult perpetrators began sexually abusing when they were under the age of 18.  If we could have reached them then, god knows how much pain we could have stopped.

Young people who have never shared their pain are at risk of becoming lifelong predators. Can you remember those teenage years in your own life, the utter confusion that enshrouds you? Now imagine if you also had a sexual interest in younger children how would you express that and to who. It is very understandably a huge obstacle to reaching out to someone for help.

Shame is the most debilitating emotion for anyone never mind a child. The attitude of most people when it comes to perpetrators is to murder, castrate or severely punish them. Where would you turn for help as an adult never mind a child.


What is wrong with this country that our own justice system cannot address this issue appropriately and consistently. It is no wonder people are pushed to take the law into their own hands. While I totally understand the frustration, people have with the law. In these cases where these groups set a trap and then advertise where the person lives, works or socialises. No matter how justified we may feel about taking that action it just doesn’t sit right with me. I imagine if the case ever did make it to trial the perpetrator would get off on the grounds that he has already been tried and convicted on social media. Add to that the fact there are no child victims as decoys are used, nothing will have resulted other than the possibility of destroying innocent family members and the possible harm or death of the perpetrator.

Finding Another Way

When my father was sent to prison for the abuse of his daughters we were all delighted.  However, if we were in a country that decided he deserved the death penalty none of us would have been happy with that.  At the time we felt death would be too easy for him and as death would have meant his suffering ends.  In our eyes living would be a lot more painful for him.

There must be a better way to deal with this problem.  I have no idea what that is, but I feel this action is only further endangering families, parents, past victims and survivors of abuse, and may drive someone to do something life changing.

One suggestion could be to set up a designated task force for sex crimes alone.   The task force should be awarded extra powers to ensure when known predators are caught they immediately are removed from society and placed in a treatment facility or incarcerated so no more children are in danger while they await a court hearing and or sentencing.

It would be more productive to stand together and fight for the rights of our children and demand the government takes this crime seriously with immediate action.

Unfortunately, people tend not to get involved or act until abuse affects their own lives, it pains me that they don’t realise how much it does affect everyone. We strongly believe angry outbursts, addiction and anti-social behaviour are just some of the ways abuse manifests in our society.  For some victims it’s their only tool to express their pain. The ripple effect caused by abuse ultimately contributes directly or indirectly to how our communities function.

Sexual abuse can be hard to think about and harder to discuss, but it’s important to address these issues and educate yourself so you can teach your child what to watch out for. Every discussion on the subject of sexual abuse along with every time you listen – you are protecting your child from sexual abuse.  We  have to find a way to discuss the subject openly if we ever want to eliminate it from our lives.


Joyce- 15th January 2017

Survivors Guide to Christmas

Happy families seem to be everywhere during the festive period and pictures of the idyllic family Christmas can trigger feelings of inadequacy for those that have become estranged from their family for whatever reason. Victims of sexual abuse often feel that portrayals of ‘normal’ family life highlights the closeness that they often lack.

Christmas time can be overwhelmingly social.  We can live for it or dread it. Society tells us that Christmas is when we sit around the tree passing presents with every member of our family.

The truth is, that many of us for different reasons, don’t have family or close friends to spend Christmas with. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and only highlights our lack of friends and family which we can often see as a failure on our part.

For some, Christmas is not a time of celebration, but a time we hate. Society tells us that to be alone is sad and there is a societal belief that no one should be alone at Christmas.

When we are alone we are faced with our self and our thoughts. This can be used to your advantage and is the most crucial time to truly ‘Mind Yourself’.  Many survivors of sexual abuse may have lost their families due to disclosure.  They may feel self-doubt questioning themselves and the choices they made.  Memories can be crushing, and everything around seems to act as a trigger. Don’t spend your time being bitter about the way things are instead make plans to change the things you are not happy about.

It is crucial to put a lot of effort into minding yourself at this time of year.  Remember regardless of what you may feel about Christmas, it is only one day and it will pass quickly. This alone time can be put to your advantage as their will be no distractions to stop you pampering yourself or finally getting to do something for yourself that you have been putting off.

Tips for Minding Yourself

Loneliness can trigger repressed emotions that can be countered by being mindful. Breathe deeply and truly connect with your inner child. Spoil the child in you by doing something that your child would consider a reward. Write a list of possible rewards you can give yourself prior to Christmas and ensure you have all you need to provide the reward on the day.


Survivors Side by Side is a support group on facebook.  They are currently in the process of setting up a buddy system which could support you if you need it on the day.  Connect with them and identify the supports available.

Make a list of anyone you feel can truly support you and let them know in advance you may need to connect with them on the day


Writing is a powerful tool and can help purge you of negative thoughts.

  • Treat yourself to a gratitude journal and list the things you are grateful for; no one’s life is perfect but we all have things we are grateful for.
  • List your achievements you will be amazed when you take the time to note your achievements just how many you come up with and it helps you realise just how you have grown and how much of your past you have worked through
  • List three things you have done for other people in the last 24 hours. Don’t look for monumental answers, making someone a cup of tea, listening to someone when they are upset are just some examples.  This may help you realise just how much you do for others, the little things are what we all remember and appreciate. It is also helpful in making you realise your own goodness.


Reading can be a powerful tool to take you out of yourself.  Reading an inspiring story can transform you and help eliminate negative thoughts.

  • Put a nice book aside for over the Christmas period and relax in front of the fire or in bed and enjoy.

Pamper Yourself

Do something nice for yourself that you normally put off

  • Have a long soak in the bath.
  • Cook yourself a nice meal
  • Wrap up warm and go for nice long walk
  • Watch a nice movie


There are many organisations that would truly appreciate your help on Christmas day.  Helping those less fortunate can put things into perspective for you and hopefully will remind you that things are not so bad

Reach Out

There are many support groups online you can reach out to if you feel the need.  Allowing yourself to ask for support is a sign of strength not weakness.

Finally I offer the following quote by A.A. Milne to all those survivors that may doubt themselves

Joyce-December 20th 2017

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