June Kavanagh, Author at The Kavanagh Sisters Skip to content

Author: June Kavanagh

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?

  1. Do you believe that Jeffery Epstein would have attracted and been able to sexually abuse girls who believed their self-worth was equal to his?
  2. Do you believe Harvey Weinstein would have been able to sexually force himself on beautiful actresses f they didn’t believe in his power and fear that his power could make or break their career?
  3. Do you believe that hundreds, possibly thousands of 13 and 14-year-old girls were happy to continually return for sex with unattractive overweight middle-aged Pakistani men in the Rochdale sex abuse scandal?
  4. Do you believe that young boys and girls could have been frightened, manipulated and coerced into sexually abusive acts all across the world by scout leaders, coaches, parents, siblings etc for the sole purpose of providing sexual gratification to the perpetrator?  

In all these instances of sexual abuse, what makes it possible for perpetrators to abuse, is an imbalance of power.

 WHO’S IN CONTROL

The key to why a victim would return to an abuser after they had been sexually abused by them is in the grooming, and that is as unique as the people involved. The abuser will say anything he has to, instilling fear into his victims to control them in order to fulfill his sexual fantasies. In my case it was ‘if you tell, your mother will leave’ that was all it took. When you hear it as an adult it sounds unbelievable that I wasn’t threatened with death if I told the secret, but there it is. 

It is easy to imagine a child being manipulated and frightened into doing and believing whatever an abuser wants them to do/believe, but abusers are predators, with no conscience and can coerce anyone at any age or stage of life if the power imbalance is there.

The abuser does not have to be highly intelligent; the victim just has to believe that they are more powerful than them which makes them more susceptible to being controlled.

It is also important to note that grooming is premeditation of a crime and should be considered as such on a charge sheet.

WHY WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND

I feel it is vitally important that there is an understanding of why a victim would return to an abuser because this detail in a victim’s statement has been unjustly used against them in court. Barristers have been known to ask victims “how is it that you say this man sexually abused you but yet, you later attended his wedding?” or, “if this man sexually abused you, why are there photos of you both after the abuse is said to have taken place, looking very happy in each other’s company?”

My response to this is: It has been well established and acknowledged that victims put a lot of energy into hiding the abuse, possibly for their entire life, is it any wonder that it cannot be detected in a photograph? and so, it shouldn’t be allowed to be used against a victim in court.

WHY THEY GO BACK?

THE CHILDREN

An abuser often inserts himself into a child’s life by befriending the parents and taking his time. This ensures the child believes he is a friend to be trusted. He pays particular attention to the child, so she/he feels special, cared for, loved, understood and ironically safe. These are the actions that create an emotional and psychological response in the child, which adds such confusion when the abuse occurs.

Young girls and boys who are tied into a sport, hobby, or a club that requires them to return on a regular to an abusive coach, trainer or scout leader, often don’t tell of the abuse because they believe whatever the abuser has told them. The abuser may have convinced them they are guilty, and no one will believe them if they tell. Their parents will disown them, or they will be harmed if they speak out. Abusers alter their information (grooming) to adapt to the child’s sensitivities but ultimately it is once again, all about an abuse of power.

There are additional reasons why an older child or adult would return to an abuser including threats, manipulation, coercion, and or money.

THE ADULTS

With adults, their abuse may involve physical violence or threats of physical violence to either themselves or possibly their children. Adult sexual abuse is often tied up in coercive control and domestic violence. There is also sexual harassment that occurs in work settings which brings up the possible loss of livelihood or career choice if one decides to make a stand.

If the sexual abuse continues with a person from childhood to adulthood, the power imbalance remains in place.  The victim is now somewhat institutionalised and although an adult can see the childhood threats should no longer be viable, the power imbalance has been so established to allow for dispensing of threats altogether.

Power imbalance is gender inequality. Some people think they are separate but think about it; sexual abuse could not occur if both people held equal power.  Because of this power imbalance, for so many victims, returning to an abuser, is not a real choice at all. There can be no choice when there is an imbalance of power.

JEFFERY EPSTEIN

In the Jeffery Epstein case, a lot of the teenage girls he abused were from impoverished troubled backgrounds. He behaved in a way that completely normalised the abuse which would have totally confused these girls.

He also paid them $200 every time he abused them. These girls would probably never have that kind of money before. He promised them he would pay for their education {which he never did} but the promise was there. He manipulated them until he got what he wanted.

He lived in a mansion, brought some of them on his private jet to his private Island to meet with A list celebrities. Can you imagine how that would feel as a teenager?  He would ask them if they any friends they could bring and he would pay them extra for each person they brought. This was very clever because it would not only increase his victim portfolio, but it ensured the victims took ownership and felt complicit in their abuse and that of the other girls they introduced to him. This was a deliberate move on his part, to ensure they would never tell.

THE ROCHDALE SEX ABUSE SCANDAL.

In the Rochdale sex abuse scandal, hundreds, possibly thousands of teenage girls were being abused in every town in England by mainly Pakistani men in well organised street grooming gangs.

At first these men would befriend girls from difficult backgrounds, the men would pick them up in taxis and bring them to a room over a local curry shop. They would give them food, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs to make them believe they were their friends. The alcohol consumption would escalate until the girls were completely intoxicated and they would begin raping them. Then things would change completely, these men would threaten the girls. This was all carried out with a sense of entitlement by these men who then began passing the girls around among many other men.

The girls would feel it was impossible to get out of the situation. The men knew the police were not taking any action even when on occasion one of the girls made a statement. These men over time became more and more brazen and treated the girls as objects whose only purpose was to provide sexual gratification. They then discarded them with the same regard as a used condom (which none of them seemed to use) as many of these girls became pregnant.

 

HARVEY WEINSTEIN

There is also Harvey Weinstein, who was regarded as one of the most powerful men on the planet at one point in time.  He used his power as leverage to gain access to women’s bodies. He sexually abused them with impunity. He had such levels of power and like Jeffery Epstein, he normalised his abuse and created an entire support system around him. He held people’s careers in his hands and anyone who didn’t go along with what he wanted, he would ruin them and ensure they were unemployable.

He would play with people’s lives and wave leading roles over the women he abused.  He would arrange meetings with women in hotel rooms to discuss a role in a movie and then corner them somewhere and force himself on them. He would then brag that these women threw themselves at him because they wanted a particular role in a movie. 

POWER AND CONTROL

Sexual abuse is about power and control and in our patriarchal society, it is up to men to admit to and address this imbalance. In the absence of this, victims of abuse are left confused and filled with self-hatred.

Do you still believe victims are making a free choice returning to an abuser?

Why People Continue to Support Donald Trump?

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To answer the question about why people, continue to support Donald Trump, you would have to try to put yourself in the mindset of his supporters. Whether we like it or not, he is appealing to a lot of people.  The questions we really should be asking are who is voting for him and why?

Timing

I believe timing is important in terms of Trump being in power at this time in history.  I also believe that Barrack Obama’s term in office ironically contributed to Trumps rise to power. Obama’s presidency was perceived by many to be a “game changer.”  People of colour and marginalised people everywhere raised their hopes, they believed they would finally be represented politically.

Although Obama did a lot of good during his presidency, I am not sure those changes were felt by the underprivileged.  This I believe contributed to a complete sense of hopelessness.

Some might say that Trump was in the right place at the right time.

Racism is another contributing factor in Trumps ability to become the President of America. There is a considerable percentage of racists in America who saw Obama’s presidency as a step too far, so when Trump came along, he was seen as someone that would reclaim control in the White House.

Why Trump?

After Obama, people were unsure what was ahead for them, but knew they didn’t want to return to the ‘status quo’ of politics in America.  Along came Trump, who didn’t speak political jargon, made claims that he was better than all the politicians who have not helped the people. He promised that he cared and could make a brighter future for the squeezed middle classes.

Trump shamelessly promoted himself with passion and arrogantly said he would fight for the people.  As he had a so-called track record of being a self-made millionaire and he convinced a number of people that his experience would ensure he succeeded in making life better for the people of America.

He continually told everyone how he understood their problems and he, unlike others that went before him intended to fix everything that was wrong with America. His claims of being fearless, wealthy and that he couldn’t be bought along with promising that no one could stop him got him votes.  His constant bashing of the media and claims that everyone else was lying (fake news) to the people fed into people’s existing mistrust of all politicians.

Narcissist

Why can’t Trumps supporters see what we see? Trump is a textbook narcissist, incapable of caring about anyone but himself. His decisions are based on his ego and fed by his own insecurities which makes him extremely dangerous.

 

He is happy to claim full credit for everything. He has no awareness and doesn’t realise or care that he is promoting and inciting hatred and racism. He is incapable of understanding that he is creating a highly volatile and abusive culture that took centuries to overcome.  He continues to promote fear and insecurity in his followers. His agenda is completely ego driven. He sees himself as the ultimate power and without a doubt will continue to abuse his position.

His Appeal

Why people voted for Trump may be incomprehensible to many, however, it is not the only country to vote unbelievably for a misogynistic egocentric man. Brazil recently appointed President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right President whose views alongside Trumps would not sit well with most right-minded people.

Why?  is the question we should all be focused on getting an answer to.  Could part of the reason men like this manage to gain so much power be as the result of not providing equal access and opportunities in education for all?

Disillusionment

I believe, what we are witnessing all over the world is a response to inequality.  People are tired of feeling powerless, abused by those who are supposed to represent them. There is growing resentment between the haves and the have nots’ as the gap gets even wider and the realisation that those in power will never do the right thing. People want change and are looking for real leadership. They are sick of being on no one’s priority list.  Seeing daily on social media all they could have but never will.

Social media has provided access to information on the corruption that exists in every corner of our society. This has compounded the hopelessness people already feel. People experience inequality and injustice everywhere they turn along with no hope of a better life for themselves or their family. With poor wages, two tier health system, unaffordable education, unattainable housing, it is getting harder every day to simply survive and it doesn’t seem to matter who comes into power as life for those at the bottom of the ladder doesn’t improve.

Tipping Point

It would appear that we are at a tipping point and the upheaval we are witnessing in the world today, has at its core, inequality. There is a cost to us all when just one person isn’t treated fairly.  What politicians don’t seem to realise is the urgency in addressing the inequality and the repercussions if they don’t.

I believe greed is the cause of a lot of our problems. It has and continues to result in immoral corrupt power-hungry politicians, elitists who are out of touch with the people on the ground, big pharma, who are prepared to poison us to make money and the heads of industry, making it impossible for people to access what should be basic human rights, like decent homes, good healthcare, education childcare and fair wages.

Politicians only see things through their own filter of privilege and education. This seems to prevent them from really understanding the plight of others.  Do they really believe that our homeless children today, are going to grow up well-adjusted contributing, happy productive members of society?

Time for change

The lessons (and there are lessons in every situation) as far as I can gather, is for the world, not just America, to stop tolerating and accepting corrupt self-serving. Politicians. Maybe a place to start is to put all our politicians on a normal working wage. Remove their entitlement to more than one pension and let them wait like us until they do actually retire before they have access to it.  Hold them accountable for their actions and if after an agreed period in the job they do not deliver on promises made have them removed. This would level the playing field. They should have the same access to education, housing, and healthcare as the rest of society. This will help to change how they see the services available to everyone and motivate them to improve them.

Bottom line is, there are real and deadly consequences to inequality. Although I don’t think we can ever rid ourselves of inequality, we should always be striving to.

June Kavanagh – 8th November 2018 

Sexual Abuse has No Gender Preference

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We claim to be experts only when speaking about our own experience of abuse, but because we are women who were abused by a man, we tend to speak in general about female victims and male perpetrators.  However, it is important to note, that we do not intend to exclude male victims of sexual abuse when we do this.

GENDER INEQUALITY

I have always felt strongly about gender inequality.  Not just because it’s so unfair but because it’s a major contributing factor in all sexual abuse crimes. However, there is one female attribute that tips the scales a little in our favour that I am very grateful for. That is, the ability to discuss our feelings.

I’ve often thought that at some point in history, powerful men foolishly overlooked this feminine attribute.  They must have viewed it as non-threatening or they would have put a stop to or curtailed it in some way.  Instead throughout the ages men have smugly demeaned women’s emotional intelligence through labelling it as either ‘women’s talk’, ‘women just being neurotic’, ‘nagging’ or simply women engaging in gossip’. They appeared to believe that women sharing their feelings held no value whatsoever and often prided themselves on not possessing this female trait.

Boy where they wrong. Without our ability to discuss and explore our feelings, the issues around sexual abuse would never have come to light and we wouldn’t have learned about the levels of harm it has left in its wake.  Talking about how we feel is probably the most important tool we have to get us out of this mess, and let’s face it, it is one hell of a mess.

CHANGE OF HEART

The first time I heard that boys were being sexually abused, I was genuinely shocked.  I never expected it and It added another dimension to this crime I hadn’t expected.   It was a lot for me to take in.

The realisation that boys too where being sexually abused was probably the beginning of my change in attitude towards men.  I had to consider them going through what I’d been through.  It wasn’t easy, and I wasn’t very willing.  I hated and resented men for so long because all my suffering had been at the hands of a man. Seeing men as victims opened my heart and gave me a lot to think about.

When cases started to emerge in the media of women who were also sexually abusing young girls and boys, I felt so confused.  I didn’t want to believe it and still don’t, but it is the truth. I had to accept that this crime was far more complex than I had originally thought, and also, that it was not gender specific.

WORK TO BE DONE

There is an awful lot of work still to be done as every day more and more sexual abuse is being uncovered.  The media is now saturated with stories of sexual abuse and we believe we are still only touching the tip of the iceberg.  We must focus on healing the courageous victims that are speaking out while continuing to encourage further male and female victims of sexual abuse to come forward and heal.

Female victims have the advantage because of their capacity to share how they feel.  We need to make it safe for men to do the same. These men may be our husbands, sons, fathers or brothers.  We all need each other and there are many reasons why we have a duty to help men deal with their abuse. Firstly, we need to support and have compassion for those men who were actively discouraged against discussing their feelings, because we understand its importance in recovery. Men were always taught that sharing feelings was a weakness. If we do not help them to communicate and talk about how they feel, we will continue to see men remain trapped in their pain. Men who stay stuck in pain and hurt are destined to develop negative thinking patterns and behaviours that impact those around them.

They may become aggressive and act out their anger because it is one emotion that has always been considered acceptable for men.

Secondly, it is the right thing to do. If we want real equality, it goes both ways.  We need to keep our hearts open.  Our society will remain negatively impacted if even one person doesn’t receive the help they deserve.

It is fair to say that there are both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse in all walks of life here in Ireland, working at all levels in our society, infiltrating, influencing and manipulating all our institutions.  We simply have no way to measure the effect this is having on our way of life. We need to consider how our lives are and will continue to be impacted and shaped by this fact with the understanding that perpetrators and victims who have not received any help or support may be responsible for making decisions every day that affects our lives.  It would be unreasonable to expect favourable or positive outcomes from damaged people.

CHALLENGE EVERYTHING, WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT

Men and women need to challenge what they were taught about their gender. What where you told was a man or a woman’s role?  Do you agree with it? what makes a man, a man, or a woman, a woman? Just what qualities, behaviours, attributes or feelings were assigned to each gender.  What as a woman or a man where you told you should be aiming for in life. Ask yourself is it now what you want?

We must make it acceptable for men to express their vulnerabilities, share their fears and thoughts with us and their male friends. Ensure men that they will be gaining something, not losing.  We could all be better at seeing the sharing of pain as an act of bravery not one of weakness. The old saying that ‘real men don’t cry’ has to be eliminated from deep in our consciousness.   Men must also get on board and acknowledge women’s emotional intelligence and do their part to ensure equality.

REALLY NOT IMPORTANT

I have reached a point in my life where I realise I will never understand why or how one person can sexually abuse another, and it doesn’t really matter.  What does it matter if it’s a girl or a boy, a man or a woman, sexual abuse is always wrong and has no gender preference. It is time to understand that sharing our experiences and emotions without shame or concern of judgement is the only way forward for all of us.

June – 20th August 2018

Are we Ready to Face the Truth?

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With the pending visit to Ireland of Pope Francis in August, it may be a good opportunity for us all to re-examine our religious beliefs and look at how Irish society has been formed and influenced by the Church. It may also be right to realise that even if the church don’t admit and take responsibility for the many children in Ireland who suffered sexual abuse, we all need to acknowledge that due to their oppression and dominance their teachings created the environment that enabled child sexual abuse to grow to levels we are still not even touching the sides of.

Body Shame

I recently joined a Zumba dance class and although it was very enjoyable, I couldn’t help but notice the vast difference between the instructor and the Irish women present.  The instructor looked so free and comfortable with her body while the Irish women looked stiff and prohibited whenever the movements could be perceived any way sexual in nature. It is so long since I had taken part in anything like this that I was more than a little shocked at how self-conscious I was about how I looked doing these movements.  I thought it must be a cultural thing, my body is never going to be able to gyrate like that. Later when I returned home and thought about it, I realised that yes it was cultural.  I had been taught a long time ago that my body and all its sexual functions were shameful. I was taught by a system that set me up as a sexual target, to be used and abused.

The Dominance of the Church

The system I refer to is the catholic church which aligned themselves with the government. Together they took up the mantle of oppression after English colonisation ended.  The Irish nation were still recovering and seeking hope for a brighter future.  The church promised heaven if you followed the commandments and Irish people were hurting, poor and with little or no education and so followed like sheep to the slaughter house. The church took advantage of Ireland’s time of need and instead of providing leadership, the church, together with the government took control over everyone.

Keepers of Our Souls

When I was a child, the church was responsible for our moral conduct and the keepers of our souls.  Everyone believed they had a direct line to God and so whatever they said must be true. In my opinion, the church did the ground work and prepared all of us, albeit unintentionally, to be sexually abused.  The sermons in the pulpit sent out the message that sex was a bad thing unless you were married, it was not meant to be enjoyed but rather it was meant purely for procreation purposes. In case that message wasn’t strong enough the church prohibited contraception to ensure no one had autonomy over their own bodies or the opportunity to have a free and healthy sex life that they themselves could control.  And according to the church, masturbation was also bad.  This sent out the clear message that your body was something to be ashamed of. Intentionally or not, this left everyone feeling ashamed and overly self-critical of their bodies. They became frightened of any sexual drive, and like the forbidden fruit, this led to an unhealthy interest in sex.  What is, and should have always been a perfectly natural and healthy part of the human experience was deliberately destroyed and used as a weapon of control against lay people.

How to Control the Masses

The church set the tone for how women were to be viewed and treated.  They dominated women’s lives completely and seemed to take a special interest in controlling their sexuality.   In 1944 the church opposed the introduction of Tampons, claiming they might arouse women. The mother and child scheme in 1950 was also opposed by the church which would have provided mothers and their children up to age 16 free health care. Up to then the church dictated on a woman’s ability to reproduce and feared that this scheme would open the door to contraception and abortion. As they owned and ruled over the hospitals and schools, they held a lot of power. However, it wasn’t till 1985 when women fought together, that the church finally lost their battle to stop women accessing contraception. For the longest time a woman couldn’t refuse to have sex with her husband. If a couple were having problems in their relationship, the husband went to see the priest who would then inform the woman, that she should honour her ‘wifely duties’.  This sent a clear and powerful message to everyone that men were superior, and women were nothing but their property, to do with as they pleased.

How Education was Manipulated

To maintain their control the church needed to keep everyone subservient and ignorant. Education was and remains a powerful tool to keep the masses under control. For women education was considered a waste of time and money. Women had a role to play that did not require them to think for themselves, they were only ever going to run a home and raise a family. For men in the 1960’s the church made it a mortal sin to even attend Trinity College and regarded it as an unsafe environment for “the fateful.” This was endorsed by the Vatican and if you wanted to go to trinity, you had to get special dispensation from the pope, a letter of tolerance. This ban was in fact not lifted until 1971.

State & Church Rule Together

The government ruled on the few aspects of women’s lives that the church couldn’t reach. Everywhere in society women were given the strong message that men’s need’s and lives were more important than theirs. Men were given all the control in and outside the home. In 1973-Married women had to leave their jobs in the civil service, as it was considered that they were occupying jobs that men should be holding. A woman had to get signed permission from their husband to collect children’s allowance. A woman couldn’t earn the same rate for a job as a man, she couldn’t even order a pint unless she had a man with her and even then, she was asked to pour it into two half pint glasses and sit in the snug out of sight. As you had to be a homeowner woman were excluded from sitting on a jury. If a woman was being beaten by her husband, she had to put up with it as she was not allowed to apply for a barring order against her husband. The list goes on and on.

Our History Influences our Present & Future

It is not about placing blame and responsibility on the state and church for the past. It is however, about acknowledging the reality of what happened here in Ireland, with particular reference to women.  Examining how the church’s actions alongside the governments support created an environment for sexual crimes to happen is necessary. Understanding that not only did they breed a cultural of acceptance of women being objects, but throughout history when an attitude exists where anyone feels more entitled, valuable or important than another person or group of people, appalling, sometimes unthinkable things happen. No one is ‘less than’ anyone else. That is the Ireland we are striving for. The beliefs held and culture of non-accountability that allows child sexual abuse to continue has to stop. I firmly believe that the time is right, and it can happen when we all stand together and say ‘enough is enough.’ You cannot stifle human nature or the human spirit. June Kavanagh – 6th August 2018

The Importance of Sex Education in Schools

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A Bill to prevent schools from using their religious ethos to avoid teaching fact-based and responsible sex relationships education to their pupils, is currently at the second stage of debating before the Dáil.  The Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill is designed to prevent denominational schools teaching sex education based on their own views of sexuality and intimacy. This Bill was developed to ensure that all students regardless of their religious backgrounds are provided with an understanding about consent, contraception, abortion, sexuality and gender issues in a non-bias, objective manner. If successful, this Bill will further sever the grip the church once held over family life in Ireland.

Practice what you Preach

One does not have to look too hard to see that while the catholic church where preaching the virtues of chastity, abstinence and celibacy, they themselves, where in large numbers following a different set of rules. Not only have we seen several priests in relationships with members of their congregation, ignoring their own promise of celibacy, but more alarming is the large percentage of priests engaging in the rape and sexual abuse of countless numbers of innocent children.

When I was young the catholic church had a lot of power over our daily lives.  Irish people trusted the church completely and considered them above reproach.  We respected priests and believed they acted as god’s representatives here on earth. For most Irish families it was considered an honour to have a priest in the family. Whatever the priest advised us to do, was done without question. They owned our hospitals and schools, giving them control over our medical care and our education.  This provided the church with the power to rule over every aspect of the general populations lives.

Sex is a Sin

The church intruded self-righteously into every aspect of Irish citizens development with special attention to their sex lives.  They preached that sex was only for procreation, even if married, it was not intended to be enjoyed.  They taught that masturbation was sinful and that your body was something to be ashamed of.

The scars from this form of thinking are still being felt today.  They managed to destroy so many lives through their teachings around sexuality. They made us believe that God apparently didn’t mind us having sex, but we certainly shouldn’t want or enjoy it.

We believed and trusted them. They set us up.  We couldn’t win.  We were destined to live a guilt-ridden existence for feeling something we are hardwired to feel.  It is a perfectly normal human reaction to feel sexual desire.  Even animals have that.  It ensures that life goes on and we don’t become extinct.

Exposed

In recent years, so many sexual abuse crimes committed by members of the church have come to light. It seems that every week there is yet another priest or bishop in the media accused of either committing or covering up sexual abuse against a child. It is incredible to me that it is taking us so long as a nation to break free of the churches misleading guidance and utter brainwashing around our sexuality but most importantly our children’s sexuality.

Conditioning

There are many well-meaning parents out there who are still under the church’s influence, conditioned to believe that early sex education for our children is not a good thing.  The belief is held that teaching children about their bodies and sex will destroy their innocence. That the child’s happiness will somehow be compromised.  Can they not see that the people who initiated this opinion had their own agenda and did not love our children as we do?

I was groomed from birth leading up to full penetrative sexual intercourse at age four. I am not unusual in terms of the age the grooming process can begin. For me there was huge confusion surrounding my abuse because I did not know what sex was and I was never told that no one should touch my private parts. Sex was not something that was ever openly discussed either at home or in school. I had no opportunity to understand what was happening to me.  Because I didn’t know what sex was, I hadn’t the language or understanding to describe even to myself what was happening. This is what we need to consider when we talk about teaching sex education in schools.  Everyone thinks it will never happen to their children, because they would know, they would spot an abuser and stop them getting near their child.  Everyone thinks that, but that’s not the way it works.

Things could have been different

If I had been told in school, through the media or at home that sexual abuse happens, and that if anyone touches your privates or makes you do anything you don’t want to do, it is wrong and that I could tell someone who would help it stop.  If I had been told that if this happens to you, you did nothing wrong and it is not ok, no matter who it is abusing you, my life could have been so different. There is nothing wrong with age appropriate sex education.  It doesn’t damage the child, it protects them.  Ignorance does not equal innocence.

Change is Needed

We have a job ahead of us to attempt to undo the damage to our own sexuality and body shaming which was imposed on us by the catholic church’s teachings so the sooner we get started the better. We need to do this for several reasons, (1) you cannot give what you do not have, and we won’t be able to help the next generation develop a healthy approach to their sexuality if we don’t heal our own wounds first. (2) We need to act now because the church has lost control and the younger generation need some guidance in this area of their lives.  We need to replace the lessons we learned with promoting a positive body image and healthy self-esteem.  We also need to teach a guiltfree approach to accepting themselves for being sexual beings.  Can you imagine?

As the numbers of young suicides continue to grow, it is important that we do not leave our young turning to the internet for answers.  They will be no better off than we were if their education takes place alone in front of a screen. With such easy access to porn we can be sure using this option can only lead to further confusion, self-hatred and pain.  We need to build up our children.  Provide them with the tools they need to navigate this new world we find ourselves in.  Times are changing, and we need to educate ourselves before we do any more damage to our children.

We need to encourage emotional wellbeing in our sons and daughters.  Teach them how to communicate, talk about their feelings.  These life skills will help them work through their issues. Introduce meditation and yoga in the early stages of school, promoting good mental health and a healthy body image.  We need to recognise the gaps that are occurring in our children’s lives and address them.

We will all pay the price of not taking the appropriate actions.  We already are.

June Kavanagh -14th June 2018

How Do Judges Get It So Wrong?

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As survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we are hurt, disappointed, shocked and insulted at some of the sentences judges hand down every day for crimes of sexual abuse.  It is staggering that any judge could ever completely suspend a sentence in the case of a sexual predator.

Repeat Offender

On the 25th April 2018, Judge Sean O’Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Criminal Court stated when referring to the Priest, John Calanan (aged 79) who had plead guilty to sexually abusing three girls, that his breach of trust had been ‘phenomenal’. He went on to say ‘it was clear that Calanan was a serial offender.  However, his decision when passing a sentence was that there was no point in sending Calanan to prison.  He stated that his sentence was based on Calanan’s age, health and the fact that he was attending Gracewell Clinic (a treatment centre for sexual abusers).

Calanan a repeat offender had previously been sentenced to eight years (three suspended) in July 2012 for attempted rape and indecent assault. In April 2015 Calanan received a three-year sentence (one year suspended) for indecently assaulting a girl. In March of 2018 Calanan again received a two-year sentence for indecently assaulting girl.

If Judge O’Donnabhain had any real understanding of sexual crimes and the people who commit them he would know that paedophiles do not retire.  This continued unfair sentencing serves no one. If the perpetrator avoids paying the price of destroying not only the life of the child but their family, friends, relatives and our communities, how can this be justice.

Perpetrator Focused Systems

To the victims of these crimes, it is apparent that all consideration is directed solely toward the perpetrator and in cases of a sexual nature, this does not result in a just or fair outcome.  Victims should always come first.  The system is simply not equipped to handle sexual crimes and it is time for a complete overhaul. The public perception is that Judges appear to hand out random sentences with no apparent rhyme or reason to them.  Transparency and accountability is called for.  It is unhealthy for any individual to hold the amount of power judges appear to have.

Who can victims turn to when it appears that Judges believe that they know and understand all crimes that come before the courts. To victims, the daily media reports around sentencing of sexual crimes would indicate that is not the case. Judges seem to apply the same rational in sentencing across all crimes. This does not work in crimes of a sexual nature and the continuing issues around judges and all those within the legal profession not receiving mandatory specialised training in this field is no longer acceptable.

Our judicial system appears to allow men to rape with impunity and knowingly or not the system has now become part of the problem. It appears to be yet another insurmountable hurdle for victims of these crimes to overcome.

Shocking lack of Understanding

The Irish times reported on a case on May 3rd, 2018, where we believe a complete miscarriage of justice occurred. Justice Patrick McCarthy at the Dublin Central Criminal Court acquitted a man of 21 counts of anally raping his wheelchair-bound stepdaughter. The victim had been abused between 2003 and 2013 when she was aged between eight and 18.

The jury deliberated for only six hours before returning a verdict of not guilty of all 69 counts. The complete lack of understanding around victim psychology and behaviour led to doubt around the perpetrators guilt.  The victim’s inconsistencies in recalling details of her abuse was referred to as an issue.  If the jury had the benefit of hearing from an expert in the field of abuse who could explain the impacts of trauma on victim’s behaviour and recalling memories, they would at least have been armed with an understanding of why there appeared to be inconsistencies in her account.

The stepfather’s barrister also questioned why the young girl did not disclose to the social workers that visited her home on several occasions over a period of five years. Again, the complete lack of understanding by the jury around how victims of abuse carry the responsibility, shame and guilt for what was done to them and how disclosure of this crime often feels more like a confession that a reporting of a crime they would again at least been in possession of accurate information before deciding on this life changing verdict.

Again, this man was released because of poor education about how trauma impacts the lives of victims.

Recommendations

We do not recommend mandatory sentencing for all sex offenders as we believe that all crimes of a sexual nature require an individual approach.  However, consistency in sentencing is important. The sentence should be linked to mandatory treatment for the offender with all privileges including any time off their sentence for ‘good behaviour’ tied in with their level of participation in treatment programmes.

For sentencing to be consistent the judges need to be mandated to adhere to agreed upon guidelines. We feel there is a real need to consider the following:

  • Non-custodial Sentences: It is unacceptable that judges even consider the complete suspension of a sentence of someone who has committed a crime that will leave its victim with a personal life sentence.
  • Concurrent Sentences: This is not a deterrent. A concurrent sentence sends the message that the perpetrator is only paying for one incident or one crime.
  • Poor/Lenient Sentences: For victims of childhood sexual abuse the crime is tantamount to murder. The grooming process which can take weeks months or even years represents premeditation of a crime. Not to sound too dramatic, but the years that the child experiences sexual abuse on a regular basis is no different psychologically to being held captive and tortured. The experience of rape itself causes lifelong problems with sexuality creating untold damage to marriages or any intimate relations for the life of the victim. How can a judge when sentencing someone who has inflicted all this damage on their victims automatically give them a reduction for so called good behaviour or because they plead guilty?
  • Age of Offender: We hear time and time again that the judge thinks that the plaintive is too old and unlikely to reoffend. This clearly demonstrates the complete lake of understanding of these crimes. It sends a clear message to offenders that if their victims don’t speak up before they reach a certain age they will escape having to pay for their crimes. It is widely accepted and understood that the crime of childhood sexual abuse can take its victims many years to speak out and a lifetime to heal from.  This decision once again lays blame on the shoulders of the victim for not speaking out sooner
  • Position Held by Offender: the perpetrators good standing in the community is of no bearing when it comes to this crime. If those within the legal profession understood the most common profile of perpetrators they would understand that they are likely to be middle class males, hold positions of trust within their communities and family orientated. So, taking an offenders position or standing within their community makes no sense whatsoever.

The Need for Strategic Thinking

We have a history of poor investment in Ireland in not only how we treat victims of sexual crimes, but inappropriate funding of vital specialised services for those victims and their families. This along with failing to track and build detailed statistics that would feed into future service planning and investments makes it easier for the government to bury their heads and continue to underfund the current service providers.

The complete lack of strategic thinking and understanding around the magnitude of these crimes will only continue to ensure that we all pay for this crime as it impacts and shapes all our communities.

This crime is not going away and it’s time to wake up and do the right thing.

23rd May 2018 – June

The Aftermath of the Belfast Rape Case

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I believe timing played a major role in the publics reaction to the Belfast rape trial.  The world has changed a lot in the last six months and for many, the trial represented the straw that broke the camels back.

Shift in Thinking

Rape cases happen every day but because of how this trial was reported on, and the treatment of both the victim and the accused men, this case caused a palpable shift in thinking about casual sex and how consent is given and understood. For many women both north and south of the border it was time to stand up and say enough is enough. It is also reasonable to say that we only heard about this case because the accused were celebrities in the rugby world.  Although the accused were found not guilty of rape, the public’s reaction following the verdict was understandable and, in my opinion, warranted. Even though they were found not guilty of rape, they were most definitely guilty of treating a young girl as an object for their own sexual gratification. They demonstrated no understanding of the condition they left the young girl in and showed a complete lack of consideration for her wellbeing. They paid no regard to the fact that the girl they had intimate relations with left their home bloodied, bruised and in tears.  In my opinion this is a disgusting way to behave towards anyone.  The inappropriate texts that emerged during the trial added to how enraged the public felt towards these men. It is rare that people react so strongly to a rape case, but the Belfast trial provoked an enormous response as it clearly highlighted the plight of the victim.  It must have resonated or affected people personally in order to trigger this level of response. In my opinion both our drinking culture and our not too distant relationship with the church and its deliberate misrepresentation of what sex and sexuality meant in our lives allowed both men and women to relate to the victim and accused.  There probably is no one, male or female who hasn’t woke up at some time in their past, hung over and not remembering where they were or how they got home. I find It commendable that people got behind the victim in the Belfast rape trial as she demonstrated such courage while being treated appallingly by the courts. However, it would be even better if everyone could respond to the entire issue of rape and sexual violence in the same way and recognise how personally our lives are impacted by these crimes.  We are in danger of becoming de-sensitised to this crime through the regularity of media reports.   We need to see this crime for the epidemic that it is?

Living in Denial

Knowing that the available statistics around rape and sexual violence is not reflective of the actual numbers of victims living with the impacts of this crime, makes it inconceivable that Northern Ireland was left with no rape crisis centre due to lack of funding.  It speaks volumes about the levels of denial that currently exists around the need for providing resources for these crimes. We need to understand how victims of sexual crimes are affected if we are ever to realise how these crimes ultimately impact and shape our communities.  When will we see that through not providing adequate supports to both the victims and perpetrators in these cases, we all pay the price? Some examples of how the effects on victims spill over into all our lives:
  1. Some victims looking for pain relief from their emotional and psychological suffering turn to drink or drugs. These individuals that we often refer to as “druggies” are merely trying to stop the pain they feel. If anything, we should feel compassion for the levels of pain they are trying to avoid.
  2. Some victims get in deeper and deeper and have to turn to crime to support the habit that began because of an inability to cope with their suffering.  They don’t’ feel they are worth anything. The drugs they take to avoid their pain is also preventing them from any positive feelings or hope for a better future.
  3. Violence is often the trade mark of male victims of sexual abuse in an attempt to take back their power and their masculinity.  These victims often end up in prison for committing violent crimes and are likely to be there because they don’t know how to express emotions in a healthy manner as they were neither given the permission or the tools necessary to speak out.
  4. We found during our research for ‘Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ that men and women that have experienced abuse and don’t receive treatment for trauma are more likely to develop mental health issues, addictions, eating disorders and have suicidal tendencies.
  5. Marital issues around sex, spills over into discontentment and unhappy marriages. This leads to poor parenting which contributes to the next generation of dysfunctional adults.
These are just some of the ways rape and sexual violence impacts all of us. Although this might seem like an extreme generalisation, it is not even touching the sides of the scale of this problem. Yet another way we pay for this crime is through our taxes. We pay for this crime through the health sector, judicial system, child and family services, addictions services, and probation services.

Wake Up Call

We need to collectively wake up to the scale of the problem and start taking it seriously. An obvious starting point would be providing the much-needed funding for the current experienced service providers both north and south of the border like the Rape Crisis Centres-One in Four-CARI and Nexus. We need to recognise the vital role these services play in providing advice and support to victims and their families. The waiting lists for these services are outrageous with Nexus NI currently holding a waiting list of 800 people. I wonder what it will take before the government understand just how short sighted it is not to supply the funding on this end of the problem, knowing that if these individuals cannot access the help they need they will end up costing the state more through the fall out.  The state needs to step up to the plate and start fulfilling their responsibilities.  Victims are tired of being let down with nowhere to turn and trying navigate their pain and suffering while this country constantly demonstrates no consideration or compassion through lack of provision for them. It is also important that we all understand that we can play a role in calling for change. We have a right to feel outraged and see the current situation as unacceptable. Protesting does have an impact on how we move forward. Everyone needs to do whatever they can, public voices do count.

Moving Forward

In relation to the men at the centre of the Belfast trial I offer the following advice. Give back, find a relatable cause (such as the new development of a rape crisis centre in Belfast) and fund raise or give talks if that’s what is needed to redeem yourselves. Rightly or wrongly you find yourselves in a very negative position. A position that represents an era of misogyny and male domination that we are rightly moving away from. Your actions now could make a huge positive contribution to that movement.   June- 19th April 2018

No Justice, No Winners!

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I felt compelled to write about the Belfast rape case as I am still reeling from the impact of the outcome. I would imagine I’m not alone when I describe a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I think about it. With that said, I would have to admit that right from the beginning of the case when I began to read and hear on social media about the witness who entered the room on what she thought was a “threesome”, I foresaw the possibility of this outcome.

Positive Impact

I would absolutely like to begin by thanking that woman for her bravery and courage. The outcome of the case, although hugely disappointing (to put it mildly) is a landmark moment. This case will probably do far more good in the long run, not only for the girl herself, but for the worldwide movement for equality for women.  She will probably never know how many people support her, believe her, and have been moved to tears, and to action because of her.

While attending a talk in the Liquor Rooms, Wellington Quay, on ‘The Culture of Sexual Harassment’ last night (28th March) Simone George (Consultant Litigator) said that ‘if we had equality there would be no need for conversations around consent, because we would be dealing with equals.’ These bumps in the road are to insure we stay vigilant in our pursuit for gender equality. The truth of the matter is that every man woman and child is part of the problem.   We were born into it, we may not have created it, but we are responsible for changing it.

Who Holds the Power

The issue of inequality between the sexes, patriarchy and male supremacy all sustain the rape culture that cases like this bring into the light. These seemingly acceptable behaviours all stem from cultural norms that go back generations. These systems were designed by men for men, to ensure that men retained all of the power.

The culture we grew up with has been sustained by generations of men with power, dominating and controlling women’s lives from every conceivable angle. As a result, women of every race, creed and culture have internalised our oppression to the point of simply ‘putting up with it’.   Just as slavery once ended, this too must end.

Conditioning

I have to fight against my own conditioning of resenting and hating men for how they treat women.  It is no more their fault than it is mine.  I do not wish to condone the actions of a rapist or diminish rape and its impacts in any way. However, I think it’s is important to acknowledge that the rapist is just as conditioned to see women as ‘less than’ as women are to accept their behaviours.

We must all take a giant step back and recognise that there is a much bigger problem to deal with.  A complete shift in our thinking is required for change to occur.  We are up against a system, a patriarchy like our political, legal, health and education systems that are inept, outdated and not fit for purpose. Gender inequality is just another system put in place a long time ago.

Change is coming

The good news is that we are gaining small incremental changes. There does appear to be a worldwide awakening around these issues.  It is important to remember that and not get despondent when things go wrong, or we don’t get the outcomes we hope and work for.

All these systems must come down.  Piece by piece, bit by bit.  It will not be easy, and it will take time, but we mustn’t give up or take our eye off the ball and lose momentum.

We must start teaching our children in schools and at home in a more holistic way. We need to provide them the tools they need to navigate this world.  Placing mental health at the top of the agenda.  Children should be learning about their bodies as soon as they begin to walk. To quote Noeline Blackwell (CEO, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre) ‘our education systems should be minding our children’s mental, physical and emotional needs.’

We must teach both boys and girls as young as possible about their own bodies. They need to feel in control and have full autonomy when it comes to personal space and boundaries.

There are strong amazing women and men working tirelessly to attain some balance.  We must all do our bit, however small. We can create a better world where men and women are equal if we work together.

June- 29th March 2018

Mother

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I usually don’t feel anything
even though Its Mother’s Day
my childhood really messed me up
so it’s always been this way

I used to wish you showed me love
I wanted nothing more
I used to long for tenderness
from the woman I adored

It’s a lack in my life that will always remain
I’ve accepted that’s just how it is
I never got to feel your love
so I had to settle for his

Never to know if I was loved
by the woman I called my mother
hurt more than abuse at the hands of the man
who damaged me like no other

With no words from you for most of my life
I drew my own conclusions
no understanding of what I did wrong
left me feeling so much confusion

I’ve grown up now and healed some wounds
with children of my own
if I knew then what I know now
I wouldn’t have felt so alone

It took a long time but I’m different now
I’ve even changed my views
as things became clearer I soon realised
that you were a victim too

 Your life was loveless and empty
you did the best you could
I’m proud of how you managed
you did better that I would

I hope I make you proud mam
your life was not in vain
you raised amazing children
who rose above the pain

You showed me what true love is
I didn’t know it then
you tried to protect us
time and time again

You had to close your heart
you couldn’t take any more
but gave your life in service
to the family that you bore

You gave and gave persistently
I just couldn’t see
you had to die before my eyes
before it dawned on me

The truth is mam, my hope for you
is peace and love and laughter
I really hope your happy now
from your loving daughter.

June

How Childhood Sexual Abuse Impacted Me – A Personal Account

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I am very passionate about passing on any form of learning I believe could help people but sometimes I feel words are inadequate and can leave you wanting when you try to explain or describe an experience.  One example of when I found this to be true is when I was asked, what are the impacts of sexual abuse? Because I fear words will fail me, when preparing to answer that question, it requires a conscious effort to remain focused in order to do justice to the reply.

Searching for the Right Answers

The first thing I would say is that you cannot answer that question easily.  In my mind the answer is enormous, as I believe to survive my own experience of childhood sexual abuse I had to become/create an entire new me.  There isn’t a part of me that escaped being altered as a direct response to my abuse. I realise that is far too simplistic a response and doesn’t help someone who hasn’t experienced Childhood Sexual Abuse gain any understanding, so I will do my best to tease that out somewhat.

Recovery

In an attempt to recover from my own experience of childhood sexual abuse I have spent many years unravelling and identifying the multitude of ways I was impacted. One thing I know for sure is that I couldn’t have moved forward with my life if I hadn’t gone back to revisit the source of all my pain and find some way to understand and forgive all involved.  Again, I am aware that sounds like a simple enough statement but believe me it was a long and painful journey that at times felt, was too high a price to pay, but it absolutely wasn’t.

Dark Thoughts

I can look back now on my life and say that before I started therapy I was an absolute mess,  physically, mentally and emotionally and I cannot imagine where or how I would be today if I had not chosen the ‘red pill’ so to speak.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t suffering inside, regardless of what I portrayed to the rest of the world.   My negative self talk ultimately became the bedrock from which I created the lie I lived and believed to be me.  Thoughts like, I deserved the abuse, God hates me, everyone hates me, I’m stupid, I have no value, I have the blackest soul, I’m the most disgusting and horrible creature on the planet, no one cares about me, why will no one save me? Consumed my every waking moments. I can now see that my experiences were generating and supporting these thoughts and that I had no choice but to come to these conclusions.

Self-Hatred

As I describe these feelings I can see that they are insufficient at portraying the depth of self hatred I felt whenever I dared to stop and think about it, which was too often.

I felt that inside of me was a blackness that I understood to be bad or evil.  This blackness took up a position in my body just below my heart and was oval in shape and ended around my navel.  I could literally feel this blackness when I inhaled.  There was pain attached to it when I focussed on it and so I did my best not to think about it.  I knew it was still there after attending years of therapy and I believed that no one was able to reach it or help me rid myself of it.  I didn’t know how it got there and so I didn’t know how to get rid of it, all I knew was that whenever I focussed and took a deep breath I could feel it and so I still believed I was bad or evil and no one could help me.

Awareness and Understanding

My understanding of it now is that my early experience of sexual abuse hurt me so deeply and there was no nurturing to interrupt all of the negative feelings accompanying the abuse.  I developed a powerfully negative self image.  Although I was exposed to a plethora of emotions I had no understanding of them which caused confusion.

The premature introduction of unwanted painful intercourse left me with huge feelings of shame and guilt in relation to my physical body and its natural functions.  When the abuse began I didn’t understand what was happening. I hadn’t yet the language or maturity to articulate what and how I was feeling, so I held all my pain in my body. I don’t know how or why but I could feel it around my diaphragm which I managed with my breath.

Over time the negative self talk and self hatred grew until I actually believed I could feel the exact shape and location of my badness.  What started as poor self image and negative self talk over time grew into this blackness I believed represented my badness.

I now understand these thoughts began with being sexually abused. Over time the pain and suffering was added to on a daily basis through an accumulation of millions of tiny perceived hurts, an angry word with someone, a slagging from a family member, feeling embarrassed, to name but a few……..   Years of daily additions to my blackness resulted in a deeply held belief in my lack of worth.

Finding My Truth

Now I know that my true self never went anywhere, I just buried it under so much negativity.  I think I always knew deep down I was good and after many years in therapy, reading books, watching programmes and writing our books I cannot even remember the day, but I do remember talking about my badness to my sister and taking a deep breath to check in with the familiar black feeling I usually located when I focused but this day I could no longer feel it.

It would seem that unknowingly, I was in fact for years, chipping away at my negativity. Slowly re-learning that I am a good person and I do have worth.  I now realise that every effort to improve yourself pays off eventually even if you don’t feel it.

Knowledge is Power

The good news is there is endless research on the impacts of abuse which we have written extensively about in our book Why Go Back? 7 Steps to Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse’ and the natural response to trauma.  This information will go a long way to reassuring you that you are not alone.   The research shows that no matter how you responded to the abuse, it was and is, a perfectly normal human response to being subjected to abuse.

It would seem that as humans we are hardwired to make life difficult for ourselves.  Your abuser starts by damaging you, but your own human nature can mean that you do far more damage to yourself long after the abuse is over than your abuser could ever do.   This by no means makes abusers any less guilty for the pain and suffering they have caused, but it is interesting to note that one of our biggest obstacle to healing can be our lack of ability to forgive ourselves.

The information we came across when writing Why Go back? would certainly have saved us years of needless suffering and our hope is that this book does the same for other victims.

June- 22nd January 2018

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