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Category: Blog – August 2018

Victims of Sexual Abuse in Positions of Power

Whenever we have spoken or written about sexual abuse, we have always talked about victims from our own perspective. We have discussed how the numerous psychological impacts of abuse can disempower victims, causing all sorts of conditions and disorders and as a result of those impacts, victims can make some poor choices in their lives.

However, recently I read an article by our now Presidential Candidate Gemma O’Doherty, a multi-award-winning Irish investigative journalist, in which she wrote about the appalling and endemic sexual abuse of young boys at one of Dublin’s private colleges Terenure College run by the Carmelite order of priests.

Gemma wrote about the sexual abuse that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s and how the young boys turned out by this college, would most likely go on to become captains of industry, top rugby players, political leaders and decision makers for our country.

THE TRUE COST

Some might see the fact that victims of abuse can manage to excel at whatever field they choose, and do not let their abuse hold them back as a positive.  However, I believe that we must acknowledge the damage that abuse does to its victims and be willing to explore what happens if victims do not look at, or deal with their abuse.

The true cost of not understanding exactly how abuse and its impacts are forever ingrained into the personality of an individual is vitally important. We need to be aware that if unaddressed, these impacts will negatively influence the decisions, attitudes and behaviours of victims in whatever role they find themselves in.

If a victim of abuse fears or chooses not to explore their past, they may do whatever it takes to push or ignore their feelings of anger, self-hatred, fear, rejection, and hurt deep down inside, living in a state of permanent denial. These feelings most likely originated from their experience of powerlessness while being abused.

EXTERNAL APPROVAL

With no real sense of self, a victim who has used his/her career to mask or avoid feeling vulnerable may go on to gauge their success or failures by the reaction of those around them. They may become overachievers, obsessive in their need to win or climb to the top. They often place excessively harsh demands on themselves, constantly setting unreachable targets ensuring they will always be disappointed. They will continually strive for perfection that does not exist, regardless of what area of their life they try to achieve it in.

Overachieving in education or a career path can often lead to what is outwardly perceived as success. Victims may misread their unhealthy obsession with power as drive and ambition.

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY

If victims rise to positions of power and control they are likely to develop a narcissistic personality. If they do not acknowledge or deal with their past they can develop an inflated sense of entitlement based on the belief that they, and only they can do anything right. It is not uncommon for them to be arrogant, domineering and exploitative. This behaviour conflicts with their excessive need for admiration and makes it difficult to maintain relationships in their private or professional lives. However, the biggest problem with a narcissist is their inability to have empathy. So, when it comes to making decisions based on what is good for the people, they will undoubtedly make the wrong choices.

For the most part they are too busy playing the game with their peers and looking for approval from their inner circle. For this reason, they will never be able to understand the plight of the new employee, the unemployed, sick, elderly or minority groups unless they feel they are belonging to one of those groups. It is the groups of people they are currently influenced by that will determine their decisions. They won’t be unduly concerned with the masses but rather with the chosen few that they admire and feel they understand.

They are most likely to pay lip service rather than taking action or making real changes to improve the lives of the people they may represent in whatever position they hold.

Due to the blocking of their own feelings they cannot connect with others pain and suffering. Their focus will be on how to climb higher and how to make connections to improve their lot.

Because of their perceived success, they may question others motivation and resent that in their eyes others have not done enough to better themselves. They may feel that others are lazy or stupid and have no desire to be any better, this leads to resenting that ‘these people’ benefit from their hard work.

DANGERS FOR US ALL

Having a narcissist in a position that influences our lives is dangerous for us all. They are incapable of including emotion in their decisions but instead use logic. These facts or logical conclusions are also skewed, using their own filter which is influenced by their own negative life experience. The fear is that the energy they put into avoiding being triggered emotionally, can ensure they will evade making decisions that serve anyone other than themselves.

WHO IS PULLING OUR STRINGS

When I look at this country and how it is currently being run, alongside examining the disastrous decisions that impact the most vulnerable within our society, like the almost 10,000 homeless, the 400 people left waiting on hospital trolleys (26% increase from last year), coupled with the constant underfunding of support services for abuse victims, I can only conclude that we have a number of individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder in positions of power. No one who has the ability to feel empathy for another individual could stand by and not do something about this country’s current situation.

And not to repeat myself, but the biggest problem with a narcissist is their inability to have empathy. We must ask ourselves when terrible decisions are being made that impact all our lives, who has the most to gain from making those decision. What could possibly be behind those decisions if not self-serving greed and ambition.

 

Paula – 24th August 2018

Sexual Abuse has No Gender Preference

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?

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

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